Long Way Down

Long Way DownLong Way Down
by Jason Reynolds
Published 2017 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
320 pages. DRC
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult, Novels in Verse

Jason Reynolds pens a haunting novel in verse that leaves the reader breathless.

After Will’s brother, Shawn, is murdered, Will finds the gun Shawn stashed in their bedroom and heads to get his revenge. He’s pretty sure he knows who killed his bother and he knows the rules: if someone kills your family, they need to be dealt with. With Shawn’s gun in his waistband, Will gets on the elevator in his building and heads to find his brother’s killer. One his way down, ghosts of his and Shawn’s past get on to tell their stories. Will begins to doubt all that he thought he knew.

Again, Reynolds gives us a stellar novel full of hard-hitting candor. Will’s descent is both physical and psychological, as he deals with the demons of his brother’s past and what he thought he knew. The verse is beautiful, powerful, and clear. Students who are nervous about reading poetry will have no problem understanding the novel. Reynolds uses this story of brother out for revenge–one that must be so familiar to so many–to subtly address the social system that pulls young black boys into violence. He illustrates perfectly how it is sometimes handed down from father to son to brother and so on. In the end the reader feels a combination of unsettling sadness and a glimmer of hope.

This should have pretty general appeal to students, but will especially be of interest to those who enjoy realistic books that deal with serious social issues facing teenagers. With descriptions of murder and some language, this book is best suited to high school students and older.

This book is too good not to include a quote:

THE SADNESS

is just so hard
to explain.

Imagine waking up
and someone,
a stranger,

got you strapped down,
got pliers shoved
into your mouth,
gripping a tooth

somewhere in the back,
one of the big
important ones,

and rips it out.

Imagine the knocking
in your head,
the pressure pushing
through your ears,
the blood pooling.

But the worst part,
the absolute worst part,

is the constant slipping
of your tongue
into the new empty space,

where you know

a tooth supposed to be

but ain’t no more.

Man. Some of those poems completely gutted me.

This is part of my New Release Challenge.

Award Winner! Long Way Down won the following honors: National Book Awar Longlist (2017), Coretta Scott King Honor (2018), Michael L. Printz Honor (2018), Odyssey Honor (2018), Best Fiction for Young Adult Top Ten Selection (2018), Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers Top Ten Selection (2018).

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