I’ve never read a book by Jason Reynolds before, and I’m not a fan of poetry either. Seeing Angie Thomas endorse this book was enough to have me intrigued, and I’m so glad I wanted to read it. Huge thanks to Faber for sending me a copy!
Everyone knows the rules after someone you love gets shot.Don’t cry. Don’t snitch. Get revenge. When Will’s brother Shawn is shot in broad daylight, Will knows what he has to do. He’s sure he knows who pulled the trigger. He knows he’s going to get revenge on his brothers killer. So he gets in the lift, raring to go for when he gets to the lobby. But when somebody else enters on the next floor, Will starts to have second thoughts.
As a poetry book, Long Way Down didn’t take too long for me to read, but the hard hitting tone of the story still hit me like a ton of bricks. You know when a book has you when the ending leaves you with your mouth hanging open in shock. Throughout my reading, I was piecing together parts of Will’s life as it unfolded in front of him. He’s in a tough position, believing the street code that has been passed to him from his brother to be words of gospel. As he enters the lift, his determination wavers only slightly. He’s ready to kill the guy that shot his brother.
Long Way Down is an epiphany of sorts for the main character, a realisation of life. Different characters enter the lift, each with a different story or snippet of life to share with him. You can see his resolve waver; the gun tucked into his waistband becomes heavier with the realisation of what he is about to do a crushing weight on his shoulders. Each character that joins him is like a punch to his gut, each one stronger than the last. Will believes he’s doing the right thing, then thinks he doesn’t, it’s a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions. The poetry got this across perfectly too, with impactful breaks between sentences enough to make the previous sentence sink in. There are pages with just one or two words on them, which makes for pretty bold reading and makes them statement pieces within the book. The use of illustration from Chris Priestley was brilliant, with the smudgy, dark images blending perfectly with the gritty tone of the book. They were the perfect accompaniment to the words of each poem.
Final thoughts: An epiphany of life’s choices told through mere minutes. 5/5