Long Way Down

By Jason Reynolds,

Book cover of Long Way Down

Book description

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Why read it?

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

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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