Savvy’s Reviews: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Content Warning: Murder, gun violence

An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds. (

I’ve said it before, I’m not crazy about books written in verse style. I think you really have to have a purpose and do it right. This book is a prime example of the perfect narrative for a verse novel. Jason Reynolds is the perfect author to pull this kind of story off. Laurie Halse Anderson described it as “Genius storytelling that will bring you to your knees.” And I honestly agree. I was not expecting this novel to hit me as hard as it did in the feels. But there it is. 

We are seeing more and more YA novels written in this verse style and it’s growing in popularity as a genre and while some authors are not as well “versed” in the practice, (ha ha see what I did there?)... others are really changing the game and deserve some attention. Sometimes verse is the best way to get an important message across. 

Poetic, raw and unflinching is the best way to really dig at the core of a social justice message or a heart wrenching story. Verse could be the answer. I feel like we will be seeing a lot more of this genre really taking over the YA area of libraries and bookstores and, honestly, I’m okay with that.  

Savvy B. is an avid Young Adult fiction superfan. 

Savvy's Reviews will be archived here, so you can catch up on all her thoughts on her latest reads.

Long Way Down

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