Long Way Down
Atheneum, imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2017
306 pages, Hardcover
Trigger warnings: violence, murder, firearms
About the Author: Jason Reynolds didn’t read a book cover to cover until he was almost 18 years old. He didn’t see himself or his community represented in literature, so he wanted no part in it. However, rap steered him toward writing poetry and now, years later, he is an award-winning author of YA novels in verse and prose. Through his work, Reynolds wants to show young readers, especially African American boys, that not all books are boring and that there is literature out there that actually sees them.
“The invention of the rules / ain’t come from my / brother, / his friends, / my dad, / my uncle, / the guys outside, / the hustlers and shooters, / and definitely not from / me. / Another thing about the rules / They weren’t meant to be broken. / They were meant for the broken / to follow.”
Will is a 15-year-old, African American boy who must decide whether he will follow his neighborhood’s “rules” – no crying, no snitching, get revenge – in the face of his brother, Shawn’s, murder. Most of this novel in verse unravels in the 60 seconds it takes Will to ride the elevator from his apartment to the ground floor; a gun tucked in his waistband and revenge on his mind. At every floor, the doors open and someone Will knows enters, each person a fatal victim of the rules. Are these real ghosts or are they Will’s subconscious urging him to break the destructive cycle? With a breathless ending and short, jabbing language throughout, Reynolds delivers a powerful narrative about the unwanted baggage many Black Americans are forced to carry – the “beef” that “gets passed along like name-brand / T-shirts… Always too big. / Never ironed out.”
PRR writer: Alessandra De Zubeldia
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