Title: Long Way Down || Author: Jason Reynolds|| Audiobook Narrator : Jason Reynolds ||Genre: Young Adult, Poetry, Contemporary, Fiction|| Publisher: Atheneum/ Caitlyn Dlouhy Books || Year of publication: 2017 || No. of pages: 320 || Available at Amazon, Bookdepository and Bol.com
Will’s older brother, Shawn has been shot and now he’s dead. Will feels a sadness so great, he can’t explain it. But in his neighbourhood there are The Rules …
No. 1: Crying … Don’t. No matter what.
No. 2: Snitching … Don’t. No matter what.
No. 3: Revenge … Do. No matter what.
When 15 year old Will discovers a gun that belonged to his deceased brother. He decides to carry out rule number 3, cause he knows who he’s after. But when Will gets into the elevator on the 7th floor, a 60 second elevator ride seems to take an eternity. The elevator stops on every floor and on each floor somebody that is familiar to Will gets in. The weird thing about all of this is … that everybody that gets in is supposed to be death.
Welcome to Jason Reynolds heart wrenching tale which is a mix of Boyz in tha Hood meets A Christmas Carol.
Why should you pick up this book and/or the audiobook ?
Cause it’s written in verse that unfolds a heart piercing narrative of an unescapable cycle of violence, which in this case is also triggered by a sense of all-swallowing grief. Jason Reynolds might not have used flowery language to tell this story but the way he manipulates words and makes use of e.g. anagrams and repetitions is just as effective. He makes writing in verse look effortless.
The audiobook is narrated by the author. Something that often does not work out for the best. In this case however it could not have been done by anybody else. Since this is in verse, the author knows, better than anyone, how to bring rhythm to his oral delivery. It certainly enhances the experience and there is no doubt in my mind that this is the only way this tale should be unleashed into the world.
The book in itself is a work of art. Deliberate lay out choices make the text leap of the page. There is tons of white space surrounding verses that seem boxed in to mimic the small space Will is in for the biggest part of the story. Fonts that are bold, italic or extremely large force the readers mind to interpret the text in a certain way. It’s like rhythm is added to the text so you can only read this story in Will’s voice.
What are the cons?
If there has to be a con, it would be the ending. Obviously I don’t want to spoil the book so I’m going to explain as little as I possibly can. In the end at least one question is left unanswered which wouldn’t be a problem, were it not for the fact that this is the most intense elevator ride ever. When you read the book you will know exactly what I am referring to.
What is so remarkable about this book?
All characters, however brief their appearance, feel fully developed. This is the main reason I was able to empathize with Will. Even though his black experience is one that is far removed from the one that I am having, his pain, anger and grief did not leave me unperturbed. What struck me most was the authentic way Will endures all the stages of grief. In my opinion you couldn’t make this up without having experienced some great loss of your own. This is confirmed in the interview that is included at the end of the audiobook.
Verdict = ☆☆☆☆☆
From the very first time I saw an interview with Jason Reynolds (BRIC TV, Brooklyn is masquerading as the world part 1 ….) I knew I was going to pick up at least one of his books. I like that he takes writing as serious as he does, I like that he doesn’t take his current succes for granted, I like the way he connects with his core audience … young people. I like that most of his protagonists are young black boys. I like that he keeps it real and writes about young people that feel invisible and makes sure that they feel seen.
This particular book is not only about young boys like Will, it’s also written in a language that will surely resonate with the Wills of this world.
☆ = bad | ☆☆ = okay-ish | ☆☆☆ = fun | ☆☆☆☆ = amazing | ☆☆☆☆☆ = exceptional