Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

Most of this story takes place in an elevator.

It follows a kid named Will who lives in a neighborhood with three rules: 1. No crying 2. No snitching 3. Always get revenge. Will’s brother has just been shot and Will is riding the elevator down with a gun in his waistband, set on following Rule 3. However, at each floor, Will is joined by the ghost of someone he knows. The closer Will gets to the bottom floor, the more he questions his decision and the more we understand his compulsion to follow these rules that seem to cause nothing but an infinite loop of pain and loss.

The time it takes to read this book is short, but the emotional impact is long and strong. At its core, this story is a lesson in empathy–understanding that everyone makes decisions that they feel are the right ones.

In an interview following the author’s (fabulous) performance narrating the audiobook, Jason Reynolds explains his choice to convey Will’s story in verse. He says that within an elevator, there is a shortage of both space and time and poetry lends itself to that degree of urgency. It makes each page feel like an elevator that you step onto and your eyes ride the poem all the way to the bottom. Elevating the format even more is Reynolds’s impressive verse, in which the words dance to their own rhythm, interacting in surprising ways.

I think a real home run book is one that perfectly matches a particular story with its soulmate of writing style and format and Jason Reynolds knocked it out of the park with this one.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC REYNOLDS)

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