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Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, narrated by Jason Reynolds is amazing! I knew it would be....everything I have read by Jason Reynolds has been outstanding. What makes this one even better, though, is the narration. He narrates this piece himself, proving he is talented not only as a writer, but also as a performer! Because of the style of writing (yes, get yourself the book in print, too, because to be able to see these words on paper is just as powerful as hearing them), I don't think anyone could have done a better job narrating this piece than the author, himself.
I teach Spanish and English Lit and Composition in an urban setting high school and my students LOVE his work. His characters are relatable, because they ARE my students. His stories are relevant, because they are about THEIR lives. He is an inspiration to so many people - young, old, students, teachers, parents.... Do you know that Jason Reynolds didn't read his 1st complete novel until he was 17 years old? The required texts written into most schools' curriculum do not always reach kids the same way they once did, because our world isn't the same way it once was. It's no surprise that MANY of my students are also 100% NOT interested in reading because they aren't able to make a clear connection with the words on the page. Why not give them something that is real and relevant to their own lives? Something that will engage them and teach them about how others survive in surroundings similar to their own. Jason Reynolds was lucky enough to find inspiration from music, from rappers, because their words spoke to him. The meaning behind those words made a difference in his life. After 19 years of teaching high school in the same district, I can confidently say that I know what my kids need to be successful. My kids need books like this. Down the road after they develop their skills as a reader (and fall in love with reading), then we can think about adding the required texts (Homer, Shakespeare) to the curriculum. This may not apply to all kids in all districts, but it definitely is applicable to mine.
On that note, it is with great pleasure that give a full 5/5 rating, in all areas, to the audiobook Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. I highly recommend ALL of his books to both teens and adults, and I recommend Long Way Down in both print and audio. By the end of the school year, our class goal (in my English 9 class) is to have read all of his books. So far, we have completed and discussed two of them, together. We are well on our way to becoming the most engaged readers in the whole school. Thank you so much for all you do for teens (and their teachers, too!). Keep up the great work...you have changed the way my students communicate with one another, you have positively influenced their decisions, and you have helped them become more successful in the classroom. You are an inspiration, and I cannot thank you enough for all you do. You are greatly appreciated!
Don't just take my word for it, though. Get the book, get the audiobook, hear the words, absorb the meaning. This is more than just words on a page. This is the reality our young people face and struggle with everyday in our world. If your daily interactions don't include spending time with or interacting with kids (kids like the main character, Will, in Long Way Down), this is your chance to expand your knowledge. Authors like Jason Reynolds write to give a voice to those who aren't always heard. It's time we all start listening. Today is that day.
Thank you for reading my review. I hope it was helpful. :-)
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
(Review originally appears in my crime fiction book review blog, BOLO Books)
With Long Way Down,
has written a book it takes but a moment to read
And yet –
these pinpoint words, even after a lifetime, will not be Forgotten
Let us not let it take any longer to be truly Understood.
Pardon my efforts at writing a review in the style of Jason Reynolds’ Long Way Down. Beyond the novel itself having a great impact, the style in which it is written can be nothing but inspirational. Written completely in narrative verse, Long Way Down belongs to a tradition of young adult novels that manipulate form as a way of reaching new levels of impact. This novel fits perfectly on the shelf alongside the works of Ellen Hopkins, Jacqueline Woodson, Rainbow Rowell, and Owen Matthews.
Long Way Down tells the story of William Holloman, a young black man on the cusp of making a life-changing decision. As the novel opens, readers learn that Will’s brother Shawn has been shot and killed in what is likely a gang-related incident. Following a list of rules he has been taught from a very young age, Will stoically sets out to get revenge. The bulk of the novel takes place in the one minute and seven seconds it takes for Will to descend in the apartment elevator.
The elevator makes unexpected stops at each floor along the way; stops that serve as chapter/section changes within the overall novel. At each floor, another person enters the elevator. These people each have advice, stories, and/or legacies for Will to comprehend. The question is, however, is Will too hyped up to assimilate them?
Long Way Down is a coming-of-age novel. It says volumes that unlike the Victorian Bildungsroman, this contemporary version distills events down to a crucial, yet brief, time-frame. This is no life-to-death narrative – or more accurately, if it is a life-to-death narrative, it is one that spans the course of less than two minutes. Such is the tough destiny for young men of color in our modern age.
More than anything, Long Way Down is a story about family – the natural family one is born into, the chosen family one surrounds oneself with, and the communal family of the world. Jason Reynolds wants us to believe – to know – that these are not mutual exclusive categories. Jason Reynolds wants us – needs us –to embrace our humanity. We can never walk in another’s shoes, but we can feel empathy for the journey those around us are taking.
Over the course of Long Way Down there are turns of phrase that will resonate far beyond the pages of the book. Like all poets, Reynolds is careful with the words he chooses, with the sounds they make, and the meanings they convey. Long Way Down can be read in just a few hours, but the beauty and power of these words will have readers slowing down to savor them and turning back to experience them multiple times.
(Personal note: After two readings of Long Way Down, I also purchased the audio version – read by the author himself – and can honestly say that to experience it verbally is yet another profound experience impossible to duplicate. The best of both worlds would be to hold the book in your hand, turning the pages, as Jason Reynolds recites it to you.)
Look, there are no easy answers in Long Way Down. In fact, I will go so far as to say that there are no answers in the book at all. The answers lie in your heart as you experience the novel – as the novel changes you. Reading Long Way Down is a profoundly moving experience one I hope that the book’s intended audience finds and savors and embraces as their own. The poetry on these pages goes toe to toe with the best rap lyrics out there. But we must not overlook the impact this novel can have on those who were never its primary audience – regardless of age, race, gender, or creed – Long Way Down has much to teach us all.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful