LONG WAY DOWN by JASON REYNOLDS
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is one of those seminal YA novels that most everyone should read once in their lives. I’ve known of Mr. Reynolds for a long time now–he’s YA royalty–but I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t read any of his books. Until now.
Long Way Down won many accolades and awards upon its release in 2018, including the Newbery. Reynolds himself is a fierce advocate for readers and fights actively against censorship. It makes sense, then, that Long Way Down would be such an impactful novel. I read it in one sitting and couldn’t put it down. Here’s why:
Long Way Down is a novel in verse, told from the point of view of a 15 year old Black boy named Will. When Will’s older brother Shawn is shot and killed, he decides to take it upon
himself to get revenge by killing his brother’s killer. This is one of the three Rules laid out in the book. Rule One: No snitching. Rule Two: No crying. Rule Three: Always get revenge. Will and his family have lived by these Rules their entire lives, and when Shawn is killed, Will knows what he needs to do. He gets his brother’s gun and goes to kill the boy he suspects killed Shawn.
What follows is an intense ride down an elevator, with each floor marked by victims of gun violence past. Will realizes they’re all ghosts and they tell him their stories of being shot, of how the Rules killed them way too soon. I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot, but the devices Reynolds uses to tell this story are so ingenious that I’m not surprised Newbery honored this book. The entire elevator sequence lasts for a mere sixty seconds, stretched out over 300 pages. It’s an emotionally fraught ride, filled with commentary on love, loss, and the futility of gun violence. Reynolds uses verse in such an impactful way that it’s hard for any reader to look away.
Long Way Down is one of those books I think every teen (and even adult) should read at least once. It’s a brilliant book and worthy of every bit of praise it gets.