Not so Long Way Down

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Shawn’s been shot to death right in the middle of his neighborhood. His brother, Will, sees the aftermath, as does his entire block. Will’s neighborhood has rules, one of them being that you must always seek revenge. So, revenge is sought by Will, of course. Using Shawn’s gun, Will advances up an elevator to shoot his brother’s killer. He’s ready for revenge, but in that elevator Will is cautioned that what he’s about to do is maybe something he shouldn’t. The caution comes from ghosts visiting him … the spirits of his former friends and family that died from gun violence.

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds, is a heartbreaking, odd, and super quick novel. The title is honestly really misleading. It was one of the shortest books I’ve read. It’s written in verse, meaning every page is like poetry. The pages could definitely be read as their own meaningful poems. Most of them, anyway. One page just says “Shawn”, and that’s probably not gonna be very meaningful to a lot of people who randomly open it at that point. It could be … but probably not. Although, on a page that says something like “but if the blood inside you is on the inside of someone else, you never want to see it on the outside of them”, a person can get a little meaning.

Reading anything about this book would make it sound like a supernatural crime thriller (it isn’t). It’s a little supernatural, yeah, but not thrilling at all. It’s gut-wrenching and sad. It’s written by a man who wanted to write something that young adults could relate to because he couldn’t relate to high school books like Moby Dick, in which a man searches for a giant whale for almost 600 pages. It’s sad this is something he thinks people will relate to. He’s right about it being relatable, don’t get me wrong, but it’s sad that gun violence is so common in our society that it’s one of the easier things to understand in the world. I haven’t personally been affected by gun violence (I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a real gun), but far too many have. This book is a deep-dive into the suffering that gun violence, or any violence, causes for so many people. It’s a story about conversations with ghosts in an elevator. Former humans who became ghosts by getting shot to death. It’s a very literary, emotional drama with a good message.

This book really touched me in the way that it creates the feeling of wanting revenge and the feeling of the loss of a loved one. The feeling of wanting to talk to someone that I haven’t seen in a while or maybe never will be able to see again. It expresses probably every array of emotion in such effective ways. It was really impressive to me that I could read a random page of this story and know exactly what it meant and which emotions were trying to be displayed. Every page was its own story. Every page has its own emotion. Every page has its own individual beauty. Most pages, anyway. Long Way Down is one of the most poignant, unique novels I’ve read. I haven’t read too many books, but I’ve read enough to know that this one is genuinely something special. I rate it 4.95 out of 5 stars.

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