I was not sure I was going to like the graphic novel version of Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. It started out oddly, slow, and frankly a tad uninteresting. (Semi-spoiler) even the death of one character was not grabbing. It was not until the main character seeks revenge did things get intriguing. The way the character is going to/getting revenge, the way they are slowly building to a climax (that makes the information come to light, showing the foreshadowing), the way the other characters play a part in the mental aspect, made it worth the slow start. This is what makes a story of a gang shooting/death of a young person fresh and new. The setting is not what you expect, the characters are not what you expect and yet, I did not think they would be any other way (Yes, a contradiction statement but true).
And the artwork was a plus. It is artistic by being realistic and fantastical which really makes the book. The watercolor feeling makes everything bleed. Like those in the story have been shot. Red is a strongly used color. And even other colors are bold, but everything is not “all there” at the same time. There are color and slight style changes to show you “then” and “now” events. You need to read the illustrations as well as the text. It is not an easy subject, nor the pages set up for easy reading, but it is worth it. And while I give the story a 3.5 (it was good, but I wanted a smidgen more, which might be found in the novel format) because of the art and the ending it is a 4.5 total.
Danica Novgorodoff adapted and illustrated a story that has the feels. It has been banned, challenged and praised. You will love or hate it. And know your reader. The scene with the young man is shot might be beautifully horrifically creative, but can be disturbing for some readers/viewers.