Trigger warning: Shooting, death, death of a parent
A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
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.
In this book, we follow Will, the day after his brother is shot Will is in a lift going to exact revenge on the man responsible for shooting Shawn Will’s brother. On each floor the lift stops at, someone joins him, someone Will knows and is connected to him, but each person is already dead.
What I found really interesting was that Will was sure he understood the circumstances of each person’s death but they all explain what actually happened, and with each story comes an understanding that he is living in a cycle. This will never end.
I really liked that the ending of this book is almost open to interpretation, there is no clarification of what Will decides to do. In my mind, he goes back up the lift. After seeing his brother cry, rule number 1 is broken and then meaning that the other rules can be broken. However, from listening to what Jason Reynolds says at the end of the book I can understand a bit more why that may not be true.
I like that this book is written in verse because verse gives the book a flow that I don’t think would have come across as well if it were in prose. There is a timing element to the book, the majority of the events happen in a lift, which would be about a minute’s worth of time.
Reynolds states that he was talking to a kid who was in Juvenile detention, and the kid says to him that he thought he was making all the right decisions at those particular moments in his life. Reynolds then goes on to say that we should not judge kids, teenagers, or adults for all of their actions before understanding what is happening in their lives, and in their circumstances. We have no idea what their home lives are like.
I am guilty of judging people, I will never say that I’m not but I do try to see it from their side, I will always correct myself, like looking both ways before you cross the road.
2 thoughts on “Long Way Down – Jason Reynolds”
This sounds like a seriously thought-provoking book. I’ve heard only phenomenal things about Jason Reynolds’ work, though I have yet to read any of it myself. I’ve added this to my list!
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It is such an amazing book! I really hope you enjoy it!