Parents' Guide to

How It Went Down

By Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Haunting look at killing of unarmed African American teen.

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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 1 parent review

age 13+

Read your own review!

Thanks to their detailed reviews, commonsensemedia.org is usually spot-on. Not in this case. If you didn't read the specifics, be warned when they say it is appropriate for a 10-year-old! Violence Though not gratuitous, there is a fair amount of violence, including the murder of an unarmed teenager. Both the shooting and the blood are described, as is the administering of CPR from a bystander. A man is beaten, people are threatened with knives, a man is threatened with stabbing, and a teenager roughly handles a girl and injures her. Another scene depicts a small child accidently cutting herself. Sex There is discussion of girls being sexy and allusions to teens having sex, though nothing beyond kissing is described. A slang term for losing virginity, "breaking cherry," is used. Teens are shown "grinding" (dancing close), and a married man is tempted to engage in an affair with a 19-year-old woman. They share a kiss, and he actively stares at her body, including her breasts and hips. A boy walks in on his father having sex with someone who's not his mother and describes hearing huffing and puffing. Language Strong language used consistently in conversation and as exclamations, including "a--hole," "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "damn." "pissed," "ass," and "bitchy." Drinking, drugs, & smoking Teens are shown smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes. An adult sells an underage teen cigarettes; adults drink alcohol and are described as alcoholics. Teens sell drugs." Btw, I gave this three stars because I didn't actually read it - while it might be a great book for older kids, I just can't imagine why they rated it okay for a 10-year-old!

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (5 ):

HOW IT WENT DOWN is a masterwork by Kekla Magoon. The story is haunting, frustrating, and heartbreaking, just like the real-life stories of Trayvon Martin and other unarmed African American teens and men killed in shootings. Magoon shows how certainty can kill and how uncertainty can keep wounds from healing. She effectively allows readers to get to know the slain teen as others saw him, painting a picture of neither saint nor sinner but just an average kid. She weaves the lives of all the people who were affected together, drawing readers in and making them want to cry out and fix all that's going wrong in this tragic situation.

How It Went Down is an excellent book to help spur conversation about these kinds of events and encourage the development of critical-thinking skills in teens who, much too often, only get one side of the story, depending on the news outlets and spokespeople who recount it. It's heavy material, but the book is written in an easy-to-understand format that's at times more like poetry than a novel.

Book Details

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