July 19, 2018

Book Review: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Title: Long Way Down
Author: Jason Reynolds
Copy Obtained: Purchased

Book Summary from Goodreads
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. 

Short Version: Who knew so much could happen in one elevator ride down??

Long Version: I honestly need to reread this because I loved it but I know I missed a ton! The language is so rich that it deserved a 2nd and even 3rd reading.  Again I'm impressed by a novel in verse's ability to capture so much in a limited amount of words.  The hurt Will fills is so palatable.  I want to just hug him and tell him it will be ok, but the honest truth is - I don't know if it will be for him.  He has faced so much death in his life as you learn in that elevator.  There is nothing to say he won't face more and more.  

What this book showed me the most though was a world I know nothing about.  Will's world is not a world I live in.  The thoughts and reactions he has are not ones I would have.  I needed to see and experience his world.  I needed to see a reality beyond my own.  Without seeing it, I can't truly understand boys like Will.  I feel now like I have a better understanding of why he felt like he did and why he reacted like he did.  I don't claim to know how he feels, but I do get it better.  That alone was good to take away from reading this book. 

Best stick-with-you image: The playground when he was eight.  Wow. 

Best for readers who: Feel like the world doesn't always understand them.  

Library Thoughts: Yes!  10000 times yes.  It's an important book as both a mirror and window for my students.  For most of my students it will be a window - a window they need to look through.  


  1. Not only is this my favorite book so far in verse, but it is one of my favorites ever. I need to buy my own copy soon as I still think about that last line that says so much.

  2. First, I love books in verse. Second, the concept for this one is very original. I think I will check it o out. Thanks for the review.