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Review: Long Way Down

**The following is based on an ARC received from @kidlitexchange in exchange for an honest review**
Long Way Down Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Talk
Will’s worst nightmare unfolds as he watches his brother Shawn get shot on the street, right in front of him. Shawn bleeds out in the arms of his girlfriend, and all Will can think about is the three rules:

Crying--don’t, no matter what.
Snitching--don’t, no matter what.
Revenge--if someone kills someone you love, find them and kill them back.
As he watches his mother mourn Shawn’s death, Will makes a plan to follow the rules. He finds Shawn’s gun, and gets on the elevator to track down the person he is SURE killed his brother. At least, he’s mostly sure.

On that elevator ride down to the ground floor, with a gun in his waistband, Will meets a series of surprising people who make him question everything he knows about the rules.

My Thoughts
Jason Reynolds writes about race relations and the struggles faced by people of color. Long Way Down follows the same pattern, but focuses specifically on gang violence and drug dealing that often occurs in urban settings.

The structure of the book is verse novel, which has a profound impact on the story-telling. Each “chapter” follows a floor on the elevator, and Reynolds is masterful at sharing lots of information in tiny snippets. For example, one verse describes Will standing in the elevator preparing to make his way down to the ground floor to take revenge on his brother’s killer.
“I put my hand behind my back

Felt the imprint
Of the piece, like
Another piece
Of me

An extra vertebra,
Some more backbone.

The description of the gun as both a physical and metaphorical backbone is powerful.

Time is another powerful element used by Reynolds. He uses it to bring a sense of urgency to the story. The story unfolds floor by floor, and although Will experiences the conversations in extended time, each stop only takes a few seconds. The reader gets to see the dichotomy between Will’s experience of a lengthy interaction with characters and the reality of the short trip in the elevator from the 8th to the 1st floor.

The theme of revenge is interwoven throughout the story. Each character that Will meets in the elevator has been impacted by the rule of revenge. For example, Will’s father was killed for avenging the death of his brother Mark. Each revenge killing set of a terrible chain of events. Reynolds emphasizes the emptiness of revenge as a motive.

Long Way Down is a quick but extremely powerful read. It was much more emotional and relatable for me than Reynolds’ book All American Boys. This is a great addition to a diversity collection and will appeal to students who are fans of Reynolds’ other books, as well as The Hate U Give and Monster.

My Recommendation
Gradues 8+ (language, violence)
4.5/5 stars

View all my reviews

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