YA Review: LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds

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Title: LONG WAY DOWN

Author:  Jason Reynolds

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

TW: death, gun violence

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he?

As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually used his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?

Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

My Review:

I’m still trying to think of a word for how good it was. I’ve got goosebumps, and can you hear how badly I’m failing at controlling my emotions? I’m crying pretty loud. Here’s what I loved:

  • written in verse
  • explores gun violence and its vicious cycle
  • touching, heartfelt and raw

The book follows Will, a fifteen-year-old on his way to avenge his older brother. But on the elevators down to the lobby from his apartment, he’s to find out what he truly knows about his brother, and the rest of his family, how each of them died and if taking revenge is truly worth it or even the answer to anything at all.

This was an exceptional piece of literature. It sucks you right in, and never lets you go. You just can’t shake off all the emotions that build up inside you even days after finishing it. It’s so brilliantly written and artistically presented, it’s easy to take in the story even though it hurts.

I loved how the downward spiral of gun violence was shown. It’s such a short book, with only a few chapters but it says all that’s there to say. Every word gets you to think about the message it sends. Every single character has their own way to bring up how this gun violence goes in cycles and never stops.

Will’s character is realistic and raw with the emotions of losing his brother. He is filled with rage and he wants revenge. Reynolds brilliantly shows how Will still has a choice to step out of the cycle. But is it so easy even if the whole truth was exposed in front of you?

Reynolds ends the story with the question. He shows how we are still a long way from ridding of a social system that traps everyone, especially the vulnerable youth to the drugs, the crimes and the guns.

long way down

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