You would think that I would’ve heard of this book. It’s:
A Newbery Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
A Printz Honor Book
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
Winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award
Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner
An Entertainment Weekly Best YA Book of 2017
A Vulture Best YA Book of 2017
IIIA Buzzfeed Best YA Book of 2017
But I hadn’t heard of it, or thought about it. And maybe that’s the problem the book is getting at.
Jason Reynolds’ Long Way Down (not to be confused with the Nick Hornby book) is about Will, a fifteen-year-old kid. He is riding down an elevator for one minute. That’s the whole book. I ride elevators all the time for work, and usually I’m thinking about what’s for lunch, or should I talk to the person who is also in the elevator, or whether someone farted (was it me?). That’s different than Will’s experience. In this book, Will is trying to figure out if he should murder the guy who just murdered his brother. Will feels like he has to do it, because it’s one of the three Rules. There’s three rules in Will’s world:
- No crying.
- No snitching.
- Revenge (Justice?)
The one minute elevator ride from his apartment to the street gives Will all the time he has to make that decision. Along the ride down, some magical realism stuff happens, and it is rough. Without giving away the plot, the message is about loss, fatalism, what I would call idiotic ideas about masculinity, and justice.
The book itself is sad, but what’s sadder to me is the idea that young people really have to live their lives the way Will has to. I have no idea what that’s like. On the back of the book, author Jason Reynolds mentions he’s tired of being around young people who are tired of feeling invisible. He says he’s less tired when these kids say they feel seen. I
It’s really easy for me to not notice these kids because I don’t see them every day. Out of sight, out of mind. This book reminded me that’s not really how things should work.
As a result of reading this book, I’m definitely going to sign up to volunteer at a local school. That’s a start, right? Ideas?