Book Title: Long Way Down
Book Author: Jason Reynolds
What is the book about in your own words?
Will, a young teenage boy who we are told very little about, watches his older brother Shawn get brutally murdered unexpectedly by an unknown shooter. Will’s struggles to cope with this immense loss are only further amplified by the “Rules” of his neighborhood: no crying, no snitching, and always take revenge. As Will prepares to retaliate by taking the life of the suspected shooter, he is thrown into a strange experience involving encounters with several deceased relatives and friends, all of which lost their lives to violence not unlike what killed Shawn. As Will rides his building’s elevator from the 7th floor to the lobby, he speaks with these various figures from his past, one for each floor, as they attempt to give him a new perspective on his life. By the end of the novel, both Will and the reader are made to question the so-called “Rules,” whose importance pales in comparison to the devastation and grief they leave in their wake.
What is your opinion of the book?
This is one of the most incredible pieces of young adult literature I can remember reading. Reynolds’ ability to strike empathy into the hearts of readers, no matter their background, is impressive and vitally important to the novel’s overall effectiveness. With very little descriptive writing, and entirely in verse, Reynolds paints an astonishingly clear portrait. As a reader, I connected with Will almost instantly, even though we share virtually nothing in common, and despite the fact that is character is almost completely undeveloped, at least in the traditional literary sense. Any person, young or old, will take value from this novel, be it through empathy or a newfound understanding of a life that is completely foreign to some.
Five trivia questions:
- Who teaches Shawn to do the famous “Penny Drop?”
- What medical condition does Will’s mother suffer from?
- Why does Uncle Mark start selling drugs, which eventually leads to his death?
- On what floor does Will encounter his childhood friend, Dani, who was killed when they were young?
- Why does Will’s father shoot Gee, even though Gee did nothing wrong?
Three Discussion Questions
- How would the meaning of the novel change if it were written in prose instead of verse? Why do you think Jason Reynolds chose this particular form to tell the story?
- What choice is Will given at the end of the book? Do you think he follows his brother, or does he stay behind?
- Why does Will’s father hold a gun to his son’s head? What affect does this have on Will’s character?
- Carlson Riggs, page 52
- Eczema, page 25
- To purchase a new video camera, page 182
- The 6th floor, page 110
- He thought Gee was responsible for killing Uncle Mark, page 219