Parents need to know that "Long Way Down" is a novel in verse by National Book Award Finalist and New York Times Bestselling author Jason Reynolds that tells the story of an African-American teen boy at a crossroads. Determined to avenge his brother's death, Will takes his brother's gun out of their shared bedroom to kill the person he's certain is the murderer, but it's a long way down the elevator. The whole novel takes place in the span of the 60-second ride, as Will's past and "The Rules" he's learned about being tough flash before him. There are multiple incidents of gun violence, death, and grief recalled and described, some swearing (including "s--t" and "damn"), adult drinking, and some teen ghosts smoke cigarettes. Parents should be prepared to have conversations about grief, loss, gun violence, and how to make sound decisions.
WHAT'S THE STORY?
In "Long Way Down," Will has known about The Rules for a long time. No one he knows invented them, they've just always existed: No Crying, No Snitching, Get Revenge. When his big brother Shawn is killed, Will knows what he has to do – he has to follow The Rules, right? The 60-second trip down the elevator from his apartment to the killer is among the longest of his life. When his past offers a different perspective on The Rules, Will has to make a tough decision: Will he go through with it?
IS IT ANY GOOD?
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A stellar creepy, engaging, heartbreaking novel in verse, "Long Way Down" is another example of what author Jason Reynolds does best – put voice to real-life issues teens face. The entire book takes place over 60 seconds of the main character's life, enough time for him to question everything he's been taught and change his life forever. Sixty seconds in this book is the difference between life and death, and readers are along for the ride from the first bing of the elevator button.
The emotions Will experiences are striking, and readers are gripped tight in the chest the entire time they're in the elevator with him. Like Will's elevator ride, the novel-in-verse's style is short and hard-hitting. Reynolds doesn't give readers a happily-ever-after ending, just the knowledge that there are choices people make every day that can put them in the hereafter before they can even blink.
RATING AND CONTENT
Recommended for ages 12 and older
Quality: 5 out of 5
Educational value: 3 out of 5
Positive messages: 3 out of 5
Positive role models: 3 out of 5
Violence: 3 out of 5
Sex: 1 out of 5
Language: 2 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 2 out of 5
Consumerism: 1 out of 5 (Are products/advertisements embedded? Is the title part of a broader marketing initiative/empire? Is the intent to sell things to kids?)
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Publication date: October 24, 2017
Number of pages: 320
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