A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jason Reynolds' Long Way Down won a 2018 Newbery Honor, Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and Michael L. Printz Honor. It's a novel in free verse that tells the story of an African American teen boy at a crossroads. Determined to avenge his 19-year-old brother's death, Will, age 15, takes his brother's gun out of their shared bedroom to kill the person he's certain is the murderer, but it's a long way down in the elevator. Almost the whole novel takes place in the span of the 60-second ride from the seventh floor to the lobby, as Will's past and "The Rules" he's learned about being tough flash before him, aided by conversations with the ghosts of friends and relatives who were victims of gun violence. Multiple incidents of shootings, death, and grief are recalled and described. There's infrequent strong language (including one-time uses of "s--t" and "f----rs"), adult drinking, and smoking by teen and adult ghosts. Parents should be prepared to have conversations about grief, loss, gun violence, and sound decision-making.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In Long Way Down, Will has known about The Rules for a long time. No one he knows invented them, they've just always existed: No Crying, No Snitching, Get Revenge. When his big brother Shawn is killed, Will knows what he has to do -- he has to follow The Rules, right? The 60-second trip down the elevator from his apartment to the killer is among the longest of his life. When his past offers a different perspective on The Rules, Will has to make a tough decision: Will he go through with it?
Is it any good?
A stellar creepy, engaging, heartbreaking novel in verse, Long Way Down is another example of what author Jason Reynolds does best: Put voice to real-life issues teens face. The entire book takes place over 60 seconds of the main character's life, enough time for him to question everything he's been taught and change his life forever. Sixty seconds in this book is the difference between life and death, and readers are along for the ride from the first bing of the elevator button.
The emotions Will experiences are striking, and readers are gripped tight in the chest the entire time they're in the elevator with him. Like Will's elevator ride, the novel-in-verse's style is short and hard-hitting. Reynolds doesn't give readers a happily-ever-after ending, just the knowledge that there are choices people make every day that can put them in the hereafter before they can even blink.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gun violence in Long Way Down. How is gun violence portrayed in movies and on TV? Have you seen guns portrayed as cool and fun? How do you think that affects kids?
Have you ever lost someone close to you? Did you have someone you could talk with about your feelings?
Have you ever thought about doing something harmful to get revenge? Did something stop you?
- Author: Jason Reynolds
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
- Publication date: October 24, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Awards: ALA Best and Notable Books, Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors, Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: March 10, 2021
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