Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a powerful story of systemic gun violence in America written in verse. The verse is written in small poems barley ever going over two pages really well painting a picture that lets you the reader control the narrative adding the details that the verse misses. The story is like a cross between Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol and Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Ghost of the past board the elevator on every floor starting with the 7th and talk young Will about what he’s going to do when he gets when he gets to the bottom floor; kill the guy he thinks killed his older brother. The ending is one of the powerful endings I’ve read, I felt this is a story that need to get turned into a stage play. This is my second book by Jason Reynolds, and the second time I have been blown away by his writing. He uses such simple words to describe such an emotional stories. Jason Reynolds writes middle grade fiction with such heart and truth. Reynolds Ghost was one of my top picked books a couple years ago and this better than that. Long Way Down was a Newberry Medal Nominee, and Won the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult 2018
The Plot: 15 year-old Will has just dropped to the ground because he heard gun fire, he and his friend get up and look around, one body is still; his older brother Sean. Will angry goes home dead set to get the gun he knows Sean has hidden in his sock drawer. He grabs the gun pretty sure he knows who killed his brother, when he gets to the bottom floor that it the guy, Riggs, is dead. Will is visited by a ghost that has been a victim of gun violence on every floor. They talk about what he’s going to do and why, can they change Will or is it too late?
What I Liked: The poetic storytelling really works, I read it sort of like I would Hamilton the musical, I think that’s why I would really like to see it as a stage play. The character of Will is a good kid that is getting dragged into something he feels he has too. I like the rules of the streets and how everyone feels beholden to these rules that’s killing these young kids. I like that the subject matter is serious but it injects humor. I liked how the ghost of Buck and the guy that shot him are friends, like if the streets didn’t exist they would have been best friends. The ending is one of the best I have read it is open ended allowing the reader to choose what happened, and I loved it so much, so powerful. My Favorite line was “Pretended like yellow tape was some kind of neighborhood flag that don’t nobody wave but always be flapping in the wind.” followed up by “And the next day, kids would play mummy with it.”
What I Disliked: I wanted a little more clarity on what Will’s father was thinking, he made him scared, but more dialogue was needed to know his full intent.
Recommendation: I recommend this story to young and old, this is a middle grade story but an older audience will get everything the story is trying to say. I think this is a great story especially for the people already living this life. I would be weary of exposing kids that this world is not on their radar to soon, but it is a good story to give empathy to those that live a different life than most. I rated Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds 5 out of 5 stars.