Review: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: 10/24/17
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Genre: young adult realistic fiction, poetry
Format/Source: ARC, Baker & Taylor arc program
Status: standalone

An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s 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. 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.

Long Way Down gave me CHILLS, y'all. It's such an emotional, thought-provoking read. It simultaneously makes gun violence immensely person with stories of how many ways one boy’s life has been irrevocably affected as a result of multiple shootings AND stands as a call for change throughout communities and society as a whole. Long Way Down is one of those stories that explores “this is how it’s done because this is how it’s always been done” excuse and proves that tradition can actively harm us if we adhere to it militantly. Sometimes tradition is dangerous. Sometimes it’s literally fatal if we aren’t brave enough to break the chain, to stand up against, to fight those harmful attitudes.

This is actually (don’t kill me for saying this) the first of Jason’s novels that I have read. I know I’m a huge slacker, but dang. What a first book to read! The technique and storytelling devices used to tell Will’s story astounded me. Using verse, playing with time to simultaneously stretch out and shorten the story to a mere 67 second elevator ride, using other characters to expound on the stories that Will knows... or thinks he knows. These elements come together to create a beautiful, poignant story that broke my heart to read but also gave me a little hope. Although I am not a huge fan of verse (this may be an understatement. When I see “a novel in verse” I pretty much lose interest in a book immediately) because I find it distancing when I prefer to keep close to characters, I found that wasn’t the case here. I felt incredibly close to Will and deeply felt everything he went through. Long Way Down is well worth me breaking my unofficial rule, and if you’re like me, this is a must-read book period, verse or no.

I actually didn’t know a lot about Long Way Down before I read it, and I definitely recommend taking that road because I was surprised by so much of the story and that added to my experience in an amazing way. This will sound strange, but I recommend not reading a lot of reviews for this book; don’t seek out a ton of info about it. Just set aside an hour or two (it’s a quick read, I promise!) and read it in one sitting. I also recommend setting aside a tissue or two if you tend to get teary when reading.

Long Way Down is a masterful work of art. It deserves all the praise, all the hype, all the awards. You need to read this book, and you need to share it with others. Will’s story is the story of so many people, both alive and dead, and this story needs to be told. It releases tomorrow so go buy it or grab it from your library. Trust me; you need it.

Purchase Links:

About the Author:
Jason Reynolds is crazy. About stories. He is a New York Times bestselling author, a National Book Award Honoree, a Kirkus Award winner, a Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. His debut novel was When I Was the Greatest and was followed by Boy in the Black Suit and All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely); As Brave As You; Jump Anyway; and the first two books in the Track series, Ghost and Patina. You can find his ramblings at

Author Links:


  1. I just found out about this book and author yesterday, so I'm even more behind than you! It sounds emotional and I knew I had to add to my Goodreads list immediately.

  2. While I usually prefer mousily and weakly stunning books, this fiercely stunning book sounds like a winner!