Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Here’s the thing about Jason Reynolds’ latest book for young adults: It is simultaneously a book that I breezed through quickly and conversely a book that took me a very long time to digest. Long Way Down is a novel told in verse. So if you’re counting pages and words, it appears to be a very quick read. However consuming lines of text is merely the beginning. It barely scratches the surface.
To read this book requires some time to contemplate the depth of emotion Reynolds infuses into each carefully chosen word and every thoughtfully crafted page. The portrait he paints is complex. This is not an easy read and Reynolds offers readers no easy out. The work of processing this story is indeed work.
Fifteen year old Will (the choice of a name seems deliberate) is coming to grips with the death of his older brother Shawn. He determines that his only recourse is to take his brother’s gun from the bedroom dresser drawer and shoot his brother’s killer. With the weapon tucked inside his waistband, Will heads to the elevator, ready to travel down his apartment’s eight floors and avenge Shawn’s death.
The language is poetic, vivid, and rich in symbolism.
AND THEN THERE WERE SHOTS
Pressed our lips to the
pavement and prayed
the boom, followed by
the buzz of a bullet,
didn't meet us.
The pacing is breathtaking. What initially appears to be rough starts and stops speeds up as the car descends closer and closer to the ground floor or the elevator's L button.
This is a book to be discovered while alone and also to read aloud. It is a book for quiet contemplation as well as group discussion. It is a story that continues to resonate with readers well past the final page.
Thank you, Jason Reynolds. The legacy of Walter Dean Myers lives on.