Long Way Down (Paperback)
Summer 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List
“A novel in verse that spans the length of time it takes for an elevator to descend, Long Way Down finds Will mourning the death of his brother and grappling with the burden of avenging his murder. Will’s grief permeates every page, from his recollections of everyday childhood memories to his encounters with other figures from his past whose lives were destroyed by gun violence. Jason Reynolds says more with a stanza than most authors can say with a chapter.”
— Lelia Nebeker, One More Page Books, Arlington, VA
"Jason Reynolds (When I Was the Greatest, All American Boys) is already one of the best writers in any genre, so I had high expectations for Long Way Down, Jason's first novel written in verse. Those expectations were shattered...and a half. This gritty, surreal story is really a polemic on the corrosive nature of revenge, and it is BRILLIANT! The last line is as good a closing to a book as I've read in a long time. This will be taught in schools for years to come... Read it." - Len Vlahos, owner— Len Vlahos
Long Way Down navigates gun violence through verse within the claustrophobic confines of a smoky elevator, conjuring a moment-to-moment story that must be followed until the fateful finale. Will’s brother has just been shot and killed, leaving Will traveling down six stories with a gun tucked into his waistband for revenge. He must follow his neighborhood’s Rules for avenging deaths, but past tragedies probe the future’s consequences and make Will’s confrontation more complex than he originally thought. Fans of Reynolds’ previous All American Boys (co-written with author Brendan Kiely) or Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give will find another worthy Coretta Scott King honoree in the electric and urgent Long Way Down.— M. Rae K., Tattered Cover Teen Advisory Board member
“Astonishing.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A tour de force.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A Newbery Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
A Printz Honor Book
A Time Best YA Book of All Time (2021)
A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner for Young Adult Literature
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
Winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award
An Edgar Award Winner for Best Young Adult Fiction
Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner
An Entertainment Weekly Best YA Book of 2017
A Vulture Best YA Book of 2017
A Buzzfeed Best YA Book of 2017
An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds’s electrifying novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.
A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he?
As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?
Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.
And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if Will gets off that elevator.
Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds.