Long Way Down

By Jason Reynolds,

Book cover of Long Way Down

Book description

“An intense snapshot of the chain reaction caused by pulling a trigger.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Astonishing.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A tour de force.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A Newbery Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
A Printz Honor Book
A Time Best YA Book of All Time…

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Why read it?

8 authors picked Long Way Down as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

In 2017, Jason Reynolds introduced the world to Long Way Down, a young adult novel that follows a fifteen-year-old’s sixty-second elevator passage from the seventh to the ground floor. Written in narrative verse, the revenge-seeking teenager meets up with ghosts who press him to decide if he truly wants to use a gun as a means to avenge the murder of his older brother.

It appears the author is using a literary platform to incite the public to WAKE UP! to the cost of gun violence. Yet, how ironic that the very theme of Long Way Down caused the book…

Written in free verse, this story is gut-wrenching.

It brings what we see and hear on the news about gang killings, to something starkly vivid and real. Our hearts break for the youth caught in this relentless circle. Can they ever break free? The last sentence of the book—the most powerful sentence I have ever read—holds the answer. 

Long Way Down does an incredible job of telling such a contained story, telling everything within the span of a single elevator ride.

Reynolds uses the elevator trip to make the protagonist encounter ghosts of multiple dead people in his community, all connected to his murdered brother, and question if vengeance is the right answer to his grief. This is a well-deserved classic, and a must-read for all novel-in-verse fans!

From Meg's list on children’s stories in verse.

Oh my gosh, why is this book shelved under Young Adult? This adult was utterly enthralled by it, maybe even changed by it.

Written in free verse, the novella takes us on a sixty-second elevator ride in a crappy apartment building in a crappy neighborhood in a crappy city. When Will gets on at the seventh floor, he’s on a mission of revenge, but the elevator stops on every floor, each time admitting someone who alters the story in astonishing, cumulative ways.

This won a ton of awards, but if you’re a grownup you probably haven’t heard of it. Hear…

From Monica's list on literary reads that contain surprises.

The reason I’m recommending the graphic version of this story is that, as a teacher of students with dyslexia, I believe it is critical to validate storytelling in all its forms. Visual stories remove barriers and make reading more equitable.

Long Way Down opens with, Will, finding his brother, Shawn, shot dead. Shawn had ventured into a rival gang’s territory in order to buy his mother’s eczema cream. Will rushes home, grabs his brother’s gun, and heads to the elevator. Shawn is following the three rules of his hood: do not cry, do not snitch, take revenge when a loved…

This is a story I read in one evening. I needed to know how it ended. After fifteen-year-old Will’s brother, Shawn, is murdered, Will believes he’s supposed to follow “the rules,” which dictate that he must seek revenge. But, with a gun tucked in his waistband, Will encounters some interesting souls on his elevator ride down to the street. These unexpected yet insightful voices encourage him to reconsider what he knows and what he’s about to do. This tale is also told in verse and uses language in a spare and beautiful way. It’s the kind of story you’ll want…

I absolutely loved this book! As an author of a memoir-in-verse, I am so impressed with how he chose to structure this story. Will, a fifteen-year-old Black boy with a gun in tow looks to avenge his brother’s murder but encounters several characters on the elevator ride that unlock a series of reflections, questions, and revelations. The creativity is mind-blowing! The poems had all the punch of a gangster and the tenderness of the boys that live within those tough exteriors. It captured the complicated nature of revenge, street life, and the seemingly endless and inescapable cycle of violence, while…

“Sixty Seconds. 

Seven Floors. 

Three Rules. 

One gun.” 

Told entirely over the course of a single elevator ride, Long Way Down is the story of one boy’s agonizing dilemma of whether or not to avenge his brother’s murder. Jason Reynolds is a masterful poet, and his verse places the reader directly next to Will in the elevator as he rages, grieves, is visited by ghosts, and lives his worst nightmares. There is more white space than words on each page of this book, and Reynolds works directly with the reader to bring Will’s story to vivid life. The deserving winner…

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