Long Way Down – Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

TITLE: Long Way Down

AUTHOR: Jason Reynolds

RELEASED: October 24th, 2017; Atheneum

GENRE: Poetry/Contemporary

AGE RANGE: YA

SYNOPSIS: A cannon. A strap. A piece. A biscuit. A burner. A heater. A chopper. A gat. A hammer. A tool for the 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.

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“ANOTHER THING ABOUT THE RULES:
They weren’t meant to be broken.
They were meant for the broken
to follow.”

I’ve always loved stories written in verse, so when I heard about this own-voice tale of the struggles that toxic masculinity and systemic racism place upon young black men, I was immediately interested. I wanted to focus on supporting as many new-to-me black authors as possible in February, and Jason Reynolds was at the very top of my list. This man has a writing voice that absolutely needs to be heard.

longwaydownsm

“But if the blood inside you is on the inside of someone else,
you never want to see it on the outside of them.”

Will’s words are so haunting and broken; he’s lost his big brother, his hero, and now all he wants is to follow the rules – the rules that he’s been taught his whole life. The rules that say the only fair response to the wrongful death of a loved one… is revenge. Will knows his mission is probably going to leave him in the same state as his brother, but it’s all he’s equipped to do. It’s such a powerful metaphor for toxic masculinity and the ways in which it prevents boys and men from knowing how to cope with trauma in meaningful, productive ways – not through their own faults, but because they’re never been shown a better way.

“Just remember, when
you’re walking in the nighttime,
make sure the nighttime
ain’t walking into you.”

My only complaint about this incredible little book, and the reason that I only gave it 4 stars, is that it was so short that it was incredibly difficult to connect to the story or characters. While the events were hard to stomach, things moved so quickly and with so little development or preamble that, by the time I felt attached to Will or his pain, I was turning the last few pages. I would’ve loved to have seen this story fleshed out a bit more; most of the pages have only 10-20 words printed on them, and I just think that, had this been written like most verse novels, where there was a solid paragraph or two per page, it would’ve carried the impact across so much better and would have meant that much more. That said, I still absolutely loved this book and cannot wait to see what Jason Reynolds releases next.

4flakes

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

3 thoughts on “Long Way Down – Jason Reynolds

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