Long Way Down

Jason Reynolds

Atheneum: Caitlyn Diouhy Books

October 2017

$17.99 US

320p hc

ISBN: 978-1481438254

published in Australia by Faber & Faber

January 2018


328p hc

ISBN: 978-0571335114

from Simon & Schuster...

An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynoldsís fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent secondsóthe time it takes a kid to decide whether or not heís going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

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. Thatís 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. Thatís where Willís now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brotherís gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who heís 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 thatís when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawnís gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didnít know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buckís in the elevator? Just as Willís trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buckís cigarette. Will doesnít 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 ENDÖif WILL gets off that elevator.

Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds.

If you have read this novel and would like to share your opinion of it with other readers please send your review/comments to YARR-A

William Holloman is a 15-year-old African-American teen who lives with his mother and older brother Shawn. When Shawn is shot in the streets, William knows what to do, what rules to follow: Donít cry. Donít snitch. Get revenge. So he finds his brotherís gun and heads out, despite never having handled a gun before. He heads into the elevator down to the bottom floor. At each floor he is confronted by a ghost from his pastÖBuck the guy who gave his brother the gun, Dani a girl from his childhood, his uncle, his father, the guy who killed Buck, and Shawn. Each a victim of gun violence. With each arrival we (and Shawn) learn much of his troubled childhood. But what will happen when he reaches the ground floor?

This powerful novel in verse takes place in the time it takes to go in a lift from the seventh floor to the ground floor. Jason Reynolds creates a vivid portrait of Will and his life, told expertly in verse. The accompanying illustrations by Chris Priestly are a great touch. This is a book which will have the reader very much engaged with the protagonist and one which is hard to put down. It certainly lingered in my mind well after I had finished it. Highly recommended.

Stephen, Canberra

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