Skip to main content

Long Way Down

Review

Long Way Down

Jason Reynolds is a stronghold of children’s and young adult books. While his middle-grade Track series has put Reynolds at the top of the charts in recent years, he is no stranger to great acclaim. Reynolds’ ALL AMERICAN BOYS is still a favorite amongst young adult teachers and librarians, and his work with children in low-income schools and maximum-security prisons is unparalleled. What I am trying to say is that Jason Reynolds “gets” kids and writes for them in a way that is bright, generous and never condescending.

"With his trademark brilliance, attention to detail and respect for his readers, Reynolds crafts a painful, enlightening story that no reader will want to miss."

In LONG WAY DOWN, Reynolds takes on the timely issue of gun violence through the eyes of 15-year-old Will, whose brother was recently gunned down on their neighborhood streets. The novel is written in verse and takes place in sixty seconds --- the amount of time it takes Will to ride his building’s elevator to the ground floor, where he will find his brother’s murderer and shoot him.

Much like grief, the story unfolds quickly and powerfully --- Reynolds’ staccato verses mimic the painful, ping-pong like thoughts one feels after a traumatic event. As Will rides down the elevator, he recounts the “rules,” the most important of which is revenge. Will’s brother taught him the rules before his death and Will is clearly grasping to them as a coping mechanism.

As Will rides the elevator, it makes a number of stops on the way down. At each one, a ghost from his past steps in, each one murdered by a gun. The ghosts do not make moralistic appeals to Will, but rather provoke him by asking him what exactly he plans to do with the gun in his jeans. Does he really think he has the right guy? Is he sure he won’t miss?

As the elevator fills with ghosts both real and imagined, the book begins to take on a claustrophobic air. Will’s mind, cluttered and fractured by grief begins to break down, allowing him to fully accept his grief and, for the first time, break a cardinal rule: “Do not cry.”

With his trademark brilliance, attention to detail and respect for his readers, Reynolds crafts a painful, enlightening story that no reader will want to miss. Give this to your reluctant readers, guy readers and anyone looking for a quick, but deeply powerful read.

Reviewed by Derek Lipton on November 2, 2017

Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds

  • Publication Date: October 24, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
  • ISBN-10: 1481438255
  • ISBN-13: 9781481438254