CATSS Critics: Long Way Down

Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

With a gun in his hand and grief in his heart, Will steps into an elevator with ghosts. The ghosts of his past, people who are supposed to be dead, join Will in the verse novel Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Set in a town where gangs dominate alongside violence, each person who joins the elevator brings new information—and more conflict—to Will. In turn, as the elevator ride inches closer to its end, Will is left to debate whether to follow through with his initial plan: to kill the man who killed his brother Shawn.

Will’s story, narrated in verse, is powerful. The writing style may seem simplistic, but its simplicity is beautiful, as each poignant line enhances Will’s story and hits you with raw emotions. The beginning starts a tad slow, but once Will reaches the elevator, the pacing turns fast yet strong, as an element of mystery blends into the story’s plot. Each introduced character has their own voice, their own tale, building off of Will’s own. When it comes to Will’s decision to kill his brother’s murderer, the novel does not simplify it into a matter of “wrong” or “right,” but instead focuses on the consequences (and the cycle) of violence. For a quick read, the story’s strong writing, characters, and themes build one elevator ride into a memorable tale of love and grief.