After being told to read this book by just about everyone I mention it to, I finally sat down and cranked out a reading of Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like verse novels and therefore I like dark verse novels, because that is what you get in YA, and it’s gritty and leaves you gasping at the end.
Will’s brother Shawn has been shot in an act of gang violence, the same violence that has plagued the neighborhood for decades, and now it is up to Will to follow the three rules.
- No crying
- No snitching
- Get revenge
That’s how Will ends up in the elevator with his brother’s gun tucked into his waistband. But the sixty second trip down takes nearly 300 pages because on every floor, he’s joined by a guest. By someone who knows him, who has changed him in ways he didn’t even realize, and who will help him unlock what he is about to do, what he is about to join. What will happen when Will reaches the lobby? Will he avenge his brother’s death? Will he end the cycle? Will he know what to do when it is time to do it?
This book is both quick and drawn out–yes, it flies by and it all happens in the span of a moment, but sometimes within a second Will will be flooded with thoughts. Is that really who he thinks it is, standing in the elevator door? Does he truly know what he thinks he knows? This book is heavy. It raises a lot of questions about culture and violence and retribution and where to draw the line and how entire families have been wrecked by gang violence, but ultimately, Reynolds leaves the decision in your hand son how you want the story to end. I think we all have preferences, but it’s a really strong ending and leaves you thinking for awhile after.
Even though I’d just read this book, I had heard about it a LOT. My grandmother long term subs at a local middle school and this book was on their required reading list. Middle school feels a LITTLE young to me, but they all seemed to really enjoy it. I think this is a really important book for boys, especially, and really taps into some tough issues that I haven’t ever dealt with but I could get lost in this book nonetheless.