A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that How It Went Down deals with many serious situations and issues, including the killing of an unarmed African American teen by a white adult, drug use among teens, gang activity, and the fallout of a media firestorm. The teen is shown being shot from several perspectives. There's frequent strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t") and some allusions to sex, though nothing beyond kissing is described. How It Went Down won a 2015 Coretta Scott King Book Award and can be used as an excellent way to begin a discussion about a topic that is consistently in the news.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Tariq went to the store for his mother and never returned home. Witnesses all have their version of what happened, but the question that haunts them long after the funeral and vigil is: What could they have done to prevent the death of an unarmed African American teen -- and which truth is the right one?
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way the killings of unarmed African American teens and men are portrayed in the media. How does the way people are portrayed affect whether justice is served?
Are the biases portrayed in How It Went Down typical or atypical?
How can families help prevent violence in their communities? What could you do in your school, your city, or your neighborhood?
- Author: Kekla Magoon
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
- Publication date: October 21, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors
- Last updated: February 11, 2020
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love African-American books and coming-of-age stories
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.