Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down is haunting and ponderous, dominating thought in an endless urgent moment. It slowly builds each link in a chain of interpersonal violence and murder stretching into the past on the longest elevator ride of Will's young life, demanding reflection.

It makes the most of its stripped-down poetic structure to build and examine the sense of urgency in Will’s plan for revenge. The rules are a litany, a scaffold upon which the rest of the narrative hangs. The way the poem titles both establish the tone of each page and are themselves part of the narrative is very effective. It is a plain retelling of a web of violence and death, counting up a few decades of the results from following the rules for revenge, showing Will his future by showing him the past.

This was a pretty quick read, but the structure and subject matter make every page linger. The time noted every few pages builds a sense of time stretching, as too many thoughts fit into each moment, but they also pass very quickly.

It is unfortunate that this book will likely be timeless, its subject matter relevant and evergreen, but I’m glad that it’s here and that I had the chance to read it.

CW for discussions of murder and gun violence.


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