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Review of Long Way Down

Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds
High School    Dlouhy/Atheneum    306 pp.    g
10/17    978-1-4814-3825-4    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-3827-8    $10.99

Fifteen-year-old Will, immobilized with grief when his older brother Shawn is shot and killed, slowly comes to mull The Rules in his head. There are three: don’t cry, don’t snitch, and “if someone you love / gets killed, / find the person / who killed / them and / kill them.” So Will locates Shawn’s gun, leaves his family’s eighth-floor apartment, and — well, here is where this intense verse novel becomes a gripping drama, as on each floor of the descending elevator Will is joined by yet another victim or perpetrator in the chain of violence that took his brother’s life. Shawn’s best friend Buck gets into the elevator on seven; Dani, Will’s friend from childhood, gets in on six; Will and Shawn’s uncle Mark gets in on five, in a cloud of cigarette smoke. And so it goes, each stop of the elevator adding to the chorus of ghosts (including Will and Shawn’s father), each one with his or her perspective on The Rules. The poetry is stark, fluently using line breaks and page-turns for dramatic effect; the last of these reveals the best closing line of a novel this season. Read alone (though best aloud), the novel is a high-stakes moral thriller; it’s also a perfect if daring choice for readers’ theater.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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