“Long Way Down” by: Jason Reynolds

I read this in one sitting. Which is quite rare for me.

It had been a *long* time since I read a story told in prose.

The writing voices of the characters came through well and the setting was intriguing.

Our main character Will is fifteen years old and his older brother (and only brother) Shawn has just been gunned down in his neighborhood.

There are “The Rules” in this town: You don’t cry. You don’t Snitch. You seek out payback.

Will finds his brothers gun in a dresser drawer and figures since he thinks he knows who did it that he will seek out some justice. Never mind the fact that he had never held a gun in his life let alone shot one.

Will gets into an elevator (which critical thinking shows just how confined and constricted Will feels-great imagery use by the author) and as the elevator makes its way down, each floor stops as a new “person” gets on.

This work is heartbreaking and eye-opening.

I truly connected to Will. The empathy level was high here.

The life he has had hasn’t been in the best of neighborhoods.

He lost a friend of his when he was little, his father, an uncle, and now his brother.

Will has a lot to feel concerned about. He isn’t quite sure he knows who killed his brother and what happens in the elevator makes him question this even more. He’s scared. He’s grieving. He’s not sure what he should do.

The ending was so ambiguous and open-ended! It was like a sucker punch to the gut. I feel like the author wanted the reader to draw their own conclusions with it.

Even though this was 300 pages, I devoured it all in one sitting. It was that intriguing to me and I wanted to know what was going to happen.

The structure of the prose was so elegantly handled and I really like when authors make the text into artwork. “The “Right?” repeated over and over in the shape of a question mark ending with “Shawn?” You could just *feel* the weight of the question and the uncertainty. Powerful stuff.

I don’t want to ruin this one for anyone because I would totally recommend it. Check this one out if you want a story that pulls you in and won’t let you go. It took me about an hour to read, it was super quick, but it was oh so worth it!

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

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