I loved, loved, LOVED this book. Told in a series of sparse but beautiful narrative poems that depict one short elevator ride, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a YA standout. This little book is reminiscent of the troubling books of verse by Ellen Hopkins (i.e. Crank, Glass) that explain her daughter’s meth addiction in a captivating, heartbreaking, and highly readable way. Like Hopkins’ works, Long Way Down uses its few words, text spacing, punctuation, and patterns of letters to create visual shapes on the page that linger with a reader long after they’ve put down the book. And, like Hopkins, Reynolds manages to take a frightfully real and painfully ugly topic and deliver a volume that is nothing short of beautiful.
The book focuses on the shooting of Will’s older brother Shawn as he walks home from the corner store. Will finds himself learning about the “rules” which survivors of such tragedies must follow. Will takes possession of a gun and seeks out his brother’s killer to exact the expected revenge. As he descends in an elevator to meet the person who killed Shawn, Will encounters a series of surprising characters as the doors open on each floor. Each character is more unexpected than the last and each has a unique and heartrending message to share with Will before he completes his ultimate goal of becoming a murderer.
Definitely not your mother’s book of love poetry or the famous but stiff Shakespearean sonnets they forced you to read in school, Reynolds’ latest is modern poetry at its evocative and realistic best. I definitely recommend this one!