Title: Long Way Down
Author: Jason Reynolds
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Jason Reynolds won my heart last year when he wrote a book for Marvel Press, focusing on Miles Morales, who becomes Spiderman sometime after the classic Peter Parker era. So, ever since, I’ve been seeking out his work. Long Way Down came out last year, and I had to return it to the library twice before I could actually get to it. It was sitting on top of my library stack when I returned from Tennessee for vacation, and before I got ready for the day, I made myself comfortable on the couch and began to read. This book is somewhere around three hundred and twenty pages, and I finished it in an hour and a half. Painful, timely, raw and ripped from the headlines, Long Way Down is unforgettable, and now I’m not sure which Jason Reynolds novel is my favorite. One of the best books of 2017! Haunting, beautiful, and absolutely unforgettable. Honestly, I’m kind of upset that I only just now got to reading it; it’s not hard to see why everyone is talking about this book, and why it won a highly coveted award.
Told in sparse, sharp and snappy prose, Long Way Down tells the story of Will, whose older brother, Sean, was murdered by a gang member in their neighborhood. Or so he thinks. Nonetheless, he’s fixed on revenge, on settling the score. He’s in an elevator, armed with his brother’s gun, headed from the seventh floor, thinking about what brought him to this path of violence, rage, and blood. He knows The Rules. No crying. No snitching. And always, always make retribution a priority. When he gets to the sixth floor, though, he ends up hitting a snag. Buck, his brother’s best friend, steps into the little box, and turns out that he’s the one who gave Sean the gun in the first place. He tells Will to check if it’s loaded, and he discovers that one bullet is missing. As far as Will knew, Sean never even used the weapon. And he realizes that Buck is dead. So how, exactly, is he standing in the elevator with Will? Buck is soon followed by a teenage girl, one that Will has known since childhood. The whole way down, Will is haunted by ghosts, both real and imagined, and he begins to piece together the truth about his beloved older brother’s death, bigger than anything that he thought he knew. And the story might just have an ending, if Will gets off that elevator before he does something he regrets.
This book was, in a word, powerful. It flew, the pacing was breakneck, due to the prose being so short; it finished it in an hour and a half. It’s been two days, and I’m still absolutely amazed. Jason Reynolds is one of my inspirations, because he’s so good at conveying great amounts of emotion in just a handful of words. I can see why this book won an award; it was raw, brutal, timely and shocking, and I loved the narration; I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what was real and imagined in Will’s traumatized, grieving mind. As the book moved forward, I was desperate to see if Will would carry out his bloody deed, or turn back before it was too late. It felt like I was being torn apart from the inside out: the loss and grief and rage seemed to jump off of the page and grab me by the throat until the ending. I loved all of the characters, but Will was my favorite: his voice was so distinctive, and reading his words made me feel like I was internally bleeding. I flew through this book, and the prose, electric and real, is tattooed onto my brain, even two days later. And that ending—oh my goodness! Jaw-dropping. Easily one of the best books of 2017, and I will never forget it. Gorgeous, brutal, sharp and cutting, a tale of family, grief, and revenge, Long Way Down is a great achievement, and I’m in awe, both as a reader and a writer! Amazing! Next on deck: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young!