Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel Book Poster Image
Powerful tale of Black teen's search for revenge.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Long Way Down offers the chance to discuss gun violence and what can be done to prevent it.

Positive Messages

Family members turn to each other for strength after tragedy. An eye for a eye only leads to more violence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Will idolizes his older brother Shawn, who pays the price for his poor choices. People from the neighborhood want Will to take the time to think through what killing someone means,


A half-dozen shootings occur in this story. Sometimes the shootings are only alluded to, but there are illustrations of dead bodies and mortal wounds.


Will and Shawn talk about and exaggerate their experiences with girls.


Infrequent strong language -- one or two instances of "damn," "hell," and "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult and teen characters sell drugs on the street. Riders smoke in an elevator.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a graphic novel adaptation of Jason Reynolds' award-winning novel in verse. As he rides the elevator down from his sixth-floor apartment, Will remembers his older brother, recently killed in a street shooting. On each floor, Will meets various people who have been shot to death, and he must make up his mind whether to commit murder in return to avenge his brother's death. Each chapter depicts a shooting, and the illustrations are sometimes disturbing. There's mild swearing -- one or two instances of "hell," "damn," and "s--t" -- and little sexual content -- a reference to boys bragging about their experiences with girls. Teens sell drugs on the street. Riders in the elevator smoke cigarettes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bywatershedschool February 23, 2021

A Long Way Down review

Two shots ring out, and our main character starts “pressing lips to the pavement.” A Long Way Down is written by Jayson Reynolds and was published in 2017

Our... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byDaltonH July 6, 2021
Kid, 11 years old November 30, 2020

lots of violence

some swearing, shooting, a lot of violence.

What's the story?

As LONG WAY DOWN: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL opens, Shawn witnesses his older brother Shawn's shooting death. The next morning, he leaves his mother alone in their apartment and takes the elevator down to the lobby, sure that he's going to use the gun in his pocket to kill the gang member who shot Shawn. On each floor, though, he is visited by ghosts of those neighbors who have already been victims and perpetrators. They tell Will about the mistakes they made and the lessons they learned. When the elevator stops, Will finally will be forced to make his unchangeable decision to be a killer or not.

Is it any good?

Grief can cause reckless behavior, and this hard-hitting meditation on the urge for revenge exposes its dangers. This adaptation of Long Way Down, Jason Reynolds' novel-in-verse, captures all of the emotional power of the original version, but in an abbreviated narrative space. Danica Novgorodoff's exquisite watercolors match Will's changing mood and turbulent outlook, and they may upset sensitive readers. There's a lot of heartbreak here, and the creators don't back away from the tragedies that befall Will, Shawn, and other boys, men, and young women from the neighborhood. The ending is not pat but it's satisfying, and it should spark discussion in a wide range of readers. Long Way Down is gripping from top to bottom.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Long Way Down depicts gun violence. Why do people feel so strongly about gun ownership?

  • Does revenge ever solve a problem? What are the dangers of seeking vengeance?

  • What are some ways to handle grief? Is it OK to cry? Is there a "right way" to show this emotion?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels and coming-of-age stories

Themes & Topics

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