Long Way Down

Jason Reynolds
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Feb 15, 2018

Will knows one way to grieve, dictated by the rules passed down for generations: no crying; no snitching; always get revenge. His uncle and father have already been victim to the cyclic system created by these rules, and last night his brother joined them. Will is desperately heartbroken, so he follows the one path given him by the rules: he grabs his brother's gun and heads for the elevator.

And that's where his story takes an unexpected turn. He has to go down seven floors, and the elevator stops at each of them to let on another passenger. Each passenger is someone dead from Will's life. The ghosts share bits of their stories and question Will about his, describing without prescribing, leaving Will to do the deciding.

The time flashes at the top of every few pages, indicating that all of the conversations are occurring within the course of the minute or two it takes the elevator to descend. Embodying the brevity of that trip, the story is told through poems--though they are so conversational in tone I might not have guessed it from the audiobook recording by the author that I listened to. The conciseness gives the story intensity and immediacy. It hits quick and hard.

And very effectively. The book functions equally well as a mirror for those who might relate to Will's situation, letting them see themselves in his story, and as a window for everyone else, helping them know where the Wills of the world are coming from. (If you can get a hold of the audiobook production, I highly recommend the "interview with the author" included at the end.)

Accessible, brief, and powerful.

Reviewed by Chris K.
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