Long Way Down (by Jason Reynolds)

Hey everyone! I’ve been super busy lately, so I haven’t blogged much, but this year, I made a resolution to blog more, and this is my first post in 2018. I read Long Way Down late last week, and here are my thoughts.


I had heard about Long Way Down when it came out last fall. A few months later, the local public library added it to the Young Adult section, and I couldn’t wait to read it. I had seen lots of positive reviews online about it, but I was still shocked when I read it. It impacted me in a way that few books do.


Long Way Down is about gun violence, specifically how it affects teenagers, and how living in a neighborhood plagued by death and violence is scary for kids. I thought the message was extremely important, the book had a powerful message.


Here’s the synopsis from Long Way Down


long way down book

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.

Long Way Down: Plot

First, I should point out that this entire book is written in verse. I knew that going in, but I had never read a book in verse until I read Long Way Down. I think that Mr. Reynolds made the story real in verse, it was a quick read, but at the same time, you felt like you were going down the elevator with Will, you could feel Will’s pain, his want for revenge, and you could tell he was hurting. Will wants to kill the person that he suspects killed his brother, but Will’s never used a gun, let alone kill someone. The ghosts in the elevator are all people Will had known, and they each carry the same important message. I felt bad for Will, he’s just a kid stuck in a terrible situation, he lost his brother, and now he’s determined to get what he thinks is justice, which has severe, deadly, violent consequences.


The Characters: A boy and ghosts


Will is a complex character. Throughout the short (but seemingly long) elevator ride, you catch glimpses of his life, with his brother, and with the ghosts (he has a history with them), and how his life has been riddled with violence. You can tell that his Mom is destroyed by her oldest son’s death, and it’s up to Will to pick up the pieces, and try to make his grief less painful. The ghosts were good, complex characters too, I won’t say much, for fear of ruining this amazing book, but they have a stories to tell Will, and it’s up to him to listen to them.


To Sum Up


So far, this is the best book I have read this year. If I had to describe this novel in one word, it would be powerful. It’s a must-read, and a must-read for teens in situations like Will’s. Mr. Reynolds wrote a moving, touching work of art, this book really packs a powerful punch.


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