Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

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three and a half dragons

I’m not often the person who has to write a negative review for a book everyone else loves, but I guess that time has finally come. Let me preface this by saying it has been a few months since I read this book so some opinions may be skewed, but I can say that what is written in this review is true to how I feel about the book now.

I read Long Way Down a while back (March according to Goodreads) and didn’t know what to think. I had read the description months before and had been excited to read it when I got the chance. However, the long space between reading the description and reading the book led me to build up expectations. Thus, when I finally read it it wasn’t what I expected at all and it’s hard not to feel let down when that happens.

One expectation that caused me to feel less drawn to the story was the poetry rather than prose approach. I personally think this book could have been so much more if it had been written in prose. I’ve read Jason Reynolds before and enjoy his writing style and voice, but that felt lost entirely in the poetic lines. I wanted to know more about Will’s feelings and thoughts as he’s going through this time. It can still take sixty seconds (which I love), but I picked this book up because I thought I would learn all the intricacies that Will is going through in this horrifying situation. Rather I got a few details of what people looked like with a few lines about being scared enough to pee his pants, but no depth. This topic demands depth.

I read All American Boys by Jason Reynolds before I read Long Way Down(about two years before) and I was expecting the same amount of feeling from this book. All American Boys had amazing characterization, depth of emotion, statistics that added rather than detracted from the story. I didn’t get any of that this time around. The idea is fantastical—time slowing down so that a single elevator ride takes the whole length of the book—and it needed to be grounded with either great story telling or facts.

One area that was handled well was the sections where death in that neighborhood was shown to be simplified and looked over. Children play in the outlines of dead bodies while mothers cry behind closed doors. I’ve lived in neighborhoods that were close to this. I’ve seen the police tape warning people away and I’ve seen people forget about it all again by the end of the evening news. So yes, there was depth in the poetry, but it could be so easily looked over.


The ending was so frustrating. I read this book for a story where I would know more or less the ending, but instead I got a ‘meh decide for yourself.’ Authors can only do that if they’ve given you enough evidence to support their belief in either decision. There was no solid evidence either way. The ghosts didn’t try to teach him anything they literally just said hello. I couldn’t tell if the ghosts wanted him to do it or not to do it. I feel like this could have been a fun music video idea, but as a book it falls flat and superficial.

**end of spoiler**

Amazing idea but poor execution.

I would still recommend this for people who enjoy prose poetry and fiction poetry. I can’t justly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Jason Reynolds because his writing style with this was so different than in All American Boys

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