Rummanah Aasi

Description: An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

Review:  Jason Reynolds' latest YA book is a fast but powerful read. It reminded me of a cross between the equally moving John Singleton's movie, Boyz in the Hood, and the Christmas Carol. An odd combination that really works in this book. Unlike Reynolds past novels, Long Way Down is a novel in free verse, a format that perfectly captures the one minute and seven seconds snapshot of Will Holloman, the protagonist, taking an elevator.
 The story is set off by a chain reaction caused by a gunshot and the death of Will's brother Shawn who was killed while going on an errand for his mother. Will relays the Rules on how he is suppose to react to the murder: don't cry, don't snitch, and always get revenge. Will then proceeds to take Shawn's gun to kill his brother's killer and enters an elevator, but is he ready to take the next step and commit murder? As Will descends the seven floors of his building he is met with seven people at each floor who all are from his past and have been killed by the same cycle of violence that Will’s about to enter. He’s properly freaked out, but as the seconds tick by and floors count down, each new occupant adds new complexity to what seemed like a simple situation and pushes Will to examine his plans for that gun.
 Reynolds’ uses his words carefully and meticulously knowing that he has a limited time and space to tell his story and they also echo like gunshots and their impact is loud and visceral. In a short amout of pages his able to give us individual stories of the people in the elevator and gives us reasons as to what lead to their demise, their own personal choices or their surroundings that lead them to poverty, gang life, or simply injustice. The format and the fast pacing will work well with reluctant readers and there is a lot to discuss regarding themes and novel structure for advance readers too. The book ends on an open ended question, but I hope that Will makes the right choice. Long Way Down is a timely and personal look at the gun violence that is plaguing our lives today.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Drug dealing, gun and gang violence are mentioned in the book. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Monster by Walter Dean Myers, When I was the greatest by Jason Reynolds, How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
3 Responses
  1. I am hearing such great things about this book; it is checked out from all our school libraries so I will have to be patient!


  2. What a clever format. This one intrigues me, such a touchy topic too. Thanks for calling my attention to this one.


  3. Oh wow! I haven't heard of this one and I do think it needs to go on my must read list! Brilly review!


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