Wow, this was an easy read. Of course, this book is for young adult readers, but if you want to take a break from the monotony of all the reading you do as a student, the long uninteresting fodder of higher education, “Long Way Down” offers something different.
Written by award-winning writer Jason Reynolds, in free form verse poetry, “Long Way Down” is the first-person reflection of Will, a young man of 15 who witnesses the death of his big brother to gang violence. As Will prepares to seek revenge for the killing, he encounters ghosts from his past as he rides the elevator down to the lobby of his apartment building. All the individuals he encounters on the ride down died from gun violence, and each has knowledge of the events to share with Will in order to get him to consider more clearly, the action he feels he needs to undertake.
Considering this book is for young adult readers, the free verse style certainly provides the reader with the feeling of an easy read and the writing of the free verse certainly complies with that assumption. The story is simple and appealing though it carries a strong message that comes through quite clearly.
The story is good, but as far as poetry is concerned, many of the free verse poems don’t work as stand-alone poems unless everything written in the English language is considered poetry. There are occasions of syllable count and there are some passages that use placement in decent ways, but the poetry seems more a gimmick than artfully thought out. If each poem stood alone and came together to create the story, it would certainly work better. A great example of this is half way through the book, “Then Dani asked, ‘What if you miss?’” Even in free verse, it seems a stretch to call this sentence a poem. Overall, this may mislead young readers as to what poetry is, but then again, it may get them interested in poetry.
As for the strengths and weaknesses of the plot, having ghosts appear that seem to add more knowledge to the situations as compared to having memories of conversations is a bold move. Although this is a stretch, and may turn some readers off because of believability, it works for the story.
Overall, this easy read is a great story about how violence begets violence and if people take the time to think things through when bad things happen, we may find less violence and more acceptance in the world. Given the book is 306 pages, it may seem daunting until you realize that some of the pages are extremely short, as the line shared earlier is one page of the book.
Be sure to check this novel out when you feel like you need a break from the monotony of school. It only takes about two hours to read. I give this book four and a half top hats out of five.