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Long Way Down

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Poetry (2017)
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.

306 pages, Hardcover

First published October 24, 2017

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About the author

Jason Reynolds

78 books8,963 followers
Jason Reynolds is an American author of novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audience. After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, Jason Reynolds moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home.

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5 stars
52,977 (47%)
4 stars
39,424 (35%)
3 stars
13,862 (12%)
2 stars
3,181 (2%)
1 star
1,322 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 17,892 reviews
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews176k followers
January 19, 2018
wow wow wow wow i loved this so much. i've read several books written in verse now and this one was superior to all the ones i've read before. the characters were fleshed out so well and the story itself was engaging and rather suspenseful. i highly recommend this if you're looking to try a book written in this style.
Profile Image for Trin.
1,846 reviews567 followers
May 30, 2017
Me on Page 1: Oh great, another novel in verse.

Me on Page, like, 5: HOLY SHIT.

Then I read the whole thing in one sitting.

Incredibly powerful, beautifully written. Reynolds doesn't use the device of verse as a crutch; he wields it like a weapon. I think I held my breath for the entire book, and the ending left me gasping. Truly unforgettable.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.5k followers
June 1, 2018
If you're in a slump and you want a quick interesting read, I would totally recommend this book!

It's all about the cycle of violence and written in verse. Really liked it!
Profile Image for Jillian Heise.
2,320 reviews482 followers
May 26, 2017
240 pages
67 seconds
7 floors
6 visitors
Each with a piece
of the story
not known
until now.
Will grieving
his brother
with a
and a
thinking he knows
what he has to do
The Rules
to do
to be
and what
comes next.

Jason Reynolds is masterful in the way he can use such sparse language in these free verse poems for such a powerful and emotional impact. I'm going to be talking about and sharing this book for a very long time.

Jason's skill at putting words together that grab your heart and head, bringing you into the lives of his characters, kids just trying their best to do what's right and live the way they've been taught, astounds me. Long Way Down is no different. This book is going to have an impact. The type of impact that makes you question what you thought you knew and how life can be. This is a must-read and must-share in classrooms (7th & up), especially in those rooms where you have teens who are living Will's life with the rules he's been taught to life by.

I can't wait to get my hands on a finished copy, to reread, sit with his words and turns of phrase, and find the spots that bear repeating to kids in our classrooms. I can picture the faces in my head of the former students I wish were still in my classroom so I could put this book right into their hands.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
701 reviews3,355 followers
February 16, 2018
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

A haunting cautionary tale delivered in verse, in which fifteen-year-old Will is forced to consider the potential consequences of his actions as he, armed with a gun and seeking revenge, waits for the elevator in his building to reach the ground floor.


that says DO NOT CROSS
gets put up, and there's nothing
left to do but go home.

That tape lets people know
that this is a murder scene,
as if we ain't already know that.

The crowd backs its way into
buildings and down blocks
until nothing is left but the tape.

Shawn was zipped into a bag
and rolled away, his blood added
to the pavement galaxy of

bubblegum stars. The tape
framed it like it was art. And the next
day, kids would play mummy with it.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,209 reviews19.7k followers
December 22, 2019
You know when you haven’t fully grasped the story they way you would have wanted to because you’re reading too fast and you just know that there are underlying gems that you are missing out on, but you can’t stop reading? This was that.

I’m pretty sure there was so much more I could’ve extracted had I slowed down. But I couldn’t.

This book caters perfectly for younger readers. For readers who perhaps don’t find reading that fascinating or find it difficult discover books that reflect their surroundings, because there is so little of it.
Jason Reynolds writes a story that is gripping, easy to read and many young people, especially young black boys, can relate to. Those individuals who came from households and grew up surrounded by gangs, gun violence and grief and who have all been painted with the same brush in the media.

Because the truth is, people are the way they are for a reason. What is their background? What traumas have these individuals suffered from? Have they been given the opportunity to deal with it in a healthy manner?

I loved the format this was told in. It’s written in verse, but tells a complete story of a young boy who is out to seek revenge because his brother was killed.
He’s fifteen, lost, confused and the only thing he knows is to follow the rules. The rules that have been set by his family and community, because validation lies there and it’s the only way a situation has ever been handled.

So does he follow the rules or carve out his own path?

The simplicity of it was beautiful. This is what boggles my mind slightly, I guess. That the writing was so simple, effortless, yet stunning and full of lessons. The style worked incredibly well.

It’s a book that educates. I loved it!
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,097 reviews17.7k followers
April 4, 2018
Uncle Mark should’ve just bought his camera and shot his stupid movie after the first day. Unfortunately, he never shot anything ever again.

But my father did.

This was incredible. Not only is it so emotional and well-developed, but oh my god, the writing is so good.

Ellen Hopkins’ use of verse and poetry is dead and Jason Reynolds killed it, personally, by himself. The double meanings alone are perfect. Jason Reynolds has a way with double meanings. Look at the top quote. A camera shoots. A man can also shoot.

I feel as if there’s not much else to say about a book that took me an hour to read. Perhaps that’s both the best and worst thing about this book. Although paced extremely well, it was such a quick read that I didn't have time to properly digest what I was reading.


They weren't meant to be broken.
They were meant for the broken

to follow."

But let’s be honest: this book is also a good read simply for being so necessary. The stories here need to be told. And they need to be told to teens who might be going through things like this. The verse format is a great way to spread messages that might not always get to certain teens. I'm sorry to keep mentioning this on reviews, but: I am so proud of how far we've gone.

The coolest thing about this book to me, and something I don't think I really noticed until I saw my favorite booktuber's review, is that this book doesn't try to be about right and wrong. It's not that simple, and Jason Reynolds knows that. I think this book has a lot of layers that don't come through at first, but that kill you more and more the deeper you look.

Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Youtube
Profile Image for Larry.
76 reviews8,740 followers
October 5, 2021
I’ve intended to read this book for quite some time, and finally got around to it. I loved the story, the writer’s approach, and overall truly enjoyed the book. Powerful message, smartly written.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,747 reviews5,292 followers
September 25, 2020
They weren't meant to be broken.
They were meant for the broken to follow.”

I’ve always loved stories written in verse, so when I heard about this own-voice tale of the struggles that toxic masculinity and systemic racism place upon young black men, I was immediately interested. I wanted to focus on supporting as many new-to-me black authors as possible in February, and Jason Reynolds was at the very top of my list. This man has a writing voice that absolutely needs to be heard.

“But if the blood inside you is on the inside of someone else,
you never want to see it on the outside of them.”

Will’s words are so haunting and broken; he’s lost his big brother, his hero, and now all he wants is to follow the rules – the rules that he’s been taught his whole life. The rules that say the only fair response to the wrongful death of a loved one… is revenge. Will knows his mission is probably going to leave him in the same state as his brother, but it’s all he’s equipped to do. It’s such a powerful metaphor for toxic masculinity and the ways in which it prevents boys and men from knowing how to cope with trauma in meaningful, productive ways – not through their own faults, but because they’re never been shown a better way.

“Just remember, when
you're walking in the nighttime,
make sure the nighttime
ain't walking into you.”

My only complaint was that, while the events were hard to stomach, things moved so quickly and with so little development or preamble that, by the time I felt attached to Will or his pain, I was turning the last few pages. I would’ve loved to have seen this story fleshed out a bit more; most of the pages have only 10-20 words printed on them, and I just think that, had this been written like most verse novels, where there was a solid paragraph or two per page, it would’ve carried the impact across so much better and would have meant that much more. That said, I still absolutely loved this book and cannot wait to see what Jason Reynolds releases next.

You can find this review and more on my blog, or you can follow me on twitter, bookstagram, or facebook!
Profile Image for Murray.
Author 151 books549 followers
August 17, 2023
A young man, Will, goes out to avenge his brother’s murder on the street. But the elevator he takes to the ground floor is full of ghosts. The talking dead. Family and friends who have been gunned down. And now he must pause and think and feel more than he wanted to pause and think and feel.

The audio version includes an interview with the author, Jason Reynolds, who also performs the reading of the book. (Great voice.) His vision of art and writing is to see empathy extended, more and more empathy extended, right across all barriers and boundaries.

Macabre, intense and profound. Edgy and painful. A different world of violence and retaliation than I’ve ever known.

What is Will finally going to do? Because we don’t know.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,483 reviews7,781 followers
January 17, 2018
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

In case you haven’t heard, jasonwritesbooks(.com). More specifically, jasonwritesIMPORTANTbooks. Books that are RELEVANT and NOW and REAL and HEARTBREAKING. Books that make my non-book-lovin’ kid not fight me when it comes to reading. Books that give a voice to a population who so often is rendered voiceless. Books that when I muttered to myself on Sunday morning “what should I read next?” had said non-book-lovin’ kid running to his backpack and returning with Long Way Down in hand and yelling “THIS!” A book that he finished on his own instead of the fifteen pages a night clip he is obligated to read. A book that I read in less than half an hour due to its written in verse format. A powerful book. An IMPORTANT book that will let children know this is not true as far as Jason Reynolds is concerned . . . .

Every star. If Reynolds writes it we’ll read it.


Because when your non-book-reading kid tells you that you HAVE to read this one right now you put your fluffy romance aside and listen to the boy.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,838 followers
December 19, 2018
this was incredible.

the writing. the composition. the way jason reynolds narrated it. the emotion. the power. i am floored (lol)

seriously the concept of the plot is so fascinating and unique. i love the family history, the stories told in such a short time, the depth of pain and emotion that is only glimpsed for a few seconds bc you can't show emotion when you gotta follow the rules

how jason reynolds told the stories of so many lives in 1 minute (or 1 hour and 43 minutes, depending on how you look at it) i will never know
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews617 followers
May 31, 2021
Library overdrive…Audiobook….read by Jason Reynolds
….1 hour and 43 minutes

Whatever you think this book is….
it’s not that!!!

I’ve seen this book around for a few years….
I had always planned on reading it.
After seeing Faith’s review on Goodreads recently — I downloaded the audiobook…..
and wow, nothing I read had prepared me….
It’s artistically written in verse…
MUST BE EXPERIENCE to get the full essence of ‘it’s power’…
of ‘it’s importance’…
of its brutal beauty.

….death, blood,race, gun violence….lose, grief, pain,
….these are issues we are not done talking about….

The Audiobook is perfect for this book, and Jason’s voice is awesome.

Only an hour + listening
time, is asked of us, but
the payoffs are life-altering.

Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,868 reviews2,244 followers
February 21, 2019
5 stars


it feels like God be flashing photos of his children, awkward, amazing, tucked in his wallet for the world to see. But the world don't wanna see no kids, and God ain't no pushy parent so he just folds and snaps us shut.”

Heartbreaking. In the best possible way, this book was utterly heartbreaking.

When Wil's brother is killed in a gang related shooting, he does the only thing he knows how to do: follow the neighborhood rules. So he gets a gun and decides to kill the person who killed his brother. But what he doesn't expect is an elevator ride filled with the past, and to face what he hasn't had to face until now.

“but if blood inside you is on the inside of someone else,

you never want to see it on the outside of them"

Jason Reynolds is an author I discovered last year and I have yet to pick up a book by him I haven't loved. His writing style is effortless to read, and yet packs a huge emotional and important impact. This was such a powerful read, I hope readers everywhere and of all ages (teen and up) read it and are affected by it in a positive way. After three book wins in a row, I'll be a forever Reynolds reader.

I'm having a hard time processing all the feels right now so this was a shorter review than I usually do. Just read the dang book!


I know you're young,
gotta get it out,
but just remember, when
you're walking in the nighttime,
make sure the nighttime
ain't walking into you.”

Follow me on ♥ FacebookBlogInstagramTwitter
Profile Image for Lauren Lanz.
723 reviews256 followers
July 17, 2020
I’m beginning to think I’m bound to love stories told in verse. Long Way Down was masterfully written, with an ending that left me breathless.

“People always love people more when they're dead.”

This book follows fifteen year old William, a boy who’s just witnessed his older brother’s murder. The tragic event has left him hurt and confused, with the addition of a broken mother to account for.
All his life, William has been taught the ‘rules’ for situations like these:

1. No crying
2. No snitching
3. Revenge

These rules are why William finds himself on an elevator with a gun tucked into his pocket, descending down to the level of his brother’s killer. Down to the man he intends to kill for the innocent life he’s taken.
Things take a strange turn when on each floor, a murdered soul from Will’s past life enters the elevator, each sharing the story of their death. Within the few minutes it takes the elevator to descend, William will have to decide whether he intends to carry out the revenge he originally sought out for.

Having read one of Jason Reynolds previous works on police brutality, (All American Boys) I was expecting another great novel detailing the personal effects that come with losing someone to another’s violence. While the prose of these two books are certainly different, I found Long Way Down slightly superior because of the narrative in verse. The punch seems to land harder whenever I read a story told in poems.

Reynolds also does a fantastic job giving the reader a sense of William’s confusion and fear. It is a constant reminder that the protagonist is only fifteen, being put into a situation many could never imagine. It was so easy to fly through the pages with such a powerful voice to follow.

The way things wrapped up was so, so incredible. It gave readers plenty of room to think and reflect on the novel as a whole, while still managing to remain a satisfying conclusion. This was an absolute wonder to read, I’d recommend it to anyone willing to give it a go.
Profile Image for Layla.
341 reviews385 followers
September 22, 2021
~ 3.5 stars ~

Long Way Down is a very meaningful and symbolic book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I was able to finish this in about an hour. It is written in verse. My interpretation of this book is that it is a message about the cycle of violence. And I did very much like the delivery. Our main character believes that he must uphold justice for his brothers death, by killing his killer. That he must make this life changing decision. He must. That is the rules of the street. But on his way down in the elevator, he encounters the spirits of the people in his life who have passed away.

There are a lot of valuable lessons and I do believe that this is an important book.

I think the reason I didn't completely love this has a lot to do with the fact that it was written in verse. I've never been a poetry person. I don't really mesh well with it. I'm not sure if it's due to the way I was taught it or if it's just a personal preference. Not saying that I don't appreciate it, I certainly do, but personally, I'm not able to enjoy it to the full extent I should. To my mess of a brain, if poetry doesn't rhyme or have a prominent rhythm or pattern, it just seems that the enter key was pressed in random places. That there is just a bunch of stop points between words that I cease to understand. And while reading the book, sometimes I didn't comprehend why it chose to have line breaks in certain places and not others. I wasn't able to flow with the words. So honestly, this is a more "it's me not you" type situation.

But overall, this is still an amazing book that I recommend entirely. Especially if unlike me, you are a person who actually likes books written in verse.
Profile Image for Karen.
594 reviews1,198 followers
June 9, 2022
I listened to the audiobook read by the author!
This was brilliant… and powerful and poetic.
How he came up with this idea for the story was just so inventive!
Revenge killing, family .. are themes.
I love Jason Reynolds voice!
Also….the audiobook is just an hour or so long!
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
943 reviews14k followers
January 17, 2018
I downloaded this intending on possibly getting to it sometime, but I opened it up out of curiosity and ended up reading the entire thing in about an hour.

I don't have too much to say other than I think this is a really effective coming of age story about how violence and toxic masculinity affects so many young black teens. Reynolds writes really honestly and the directness of this is such a well-needed nudge in the side.

My only issue is that I struggled with the plot of this book a bit because I'm not a fan of books that require the suspension of disbelief, and this straddled that line throughout its duration. I understand the meaningfulness of the actions that occurred, but it's still just a personal preference.
Profile Image for Esta.
48 reviews9 followers
February 2, 2023
Poignant and heart wrenching story written in verse that takes place over 60 seconds in an elevator, exploring the senseless cycle of gun violence, through the eyes of main character Will, whose brother Shawn had just been shot. Extremely powerful, emotional and moving, despite being a fast-paced read.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,902 reviews534 followers
December 6, 2021
Three rules: no crying, no snitching and always get revenge. Shawn has been shot and killed. Will has Shawn's gun under his second hand shirt as he rides down in the elevator on his way to kill the boy who shot his brother. On each floor, a ghost from Will's past enters the elevator bringing back memories good and bad. Will he get revenge when he reaches the lobby? This was very original, perceptive and moving. Written in verse, the audiobook was perfectly narrated by the author.
Profile Image for Lilith Black Bee.
178 reviews357 followers
February 15, 2019

I found the concept of this book very interesting, maybe the first of this kind for me. I'll admit it, at the beginning I was a little confused about the way this book was written. It was not about the fact that it was written in verses. I will just tell you that you will most surely understand when you will read it if you didn't already because I don't want to give any kind of spoilers. The pleasure of discovering it all by yourself is one of the best, for us, the readers.

The subject was about revenge and how our main character decides either to do what he is having in mind or not. We see the conversations that he is having with some certain people that they were in his life at one point, and how they help our character in the taking of the decision.

This was a powerful lecture with some certain messages about life choices, presented in an exceptional way. The only thing that I wished from this book, was that to have more time with our character and to go to know more than what he presents us about his life and the people from it.

Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews904 followers
December 5, 2018
I wish this was written in a traditional format, I just don't seem to click with a story as much whenever it's written in verse.

It was still a beautiful read and I definitely appreciate the message of it.
Profile Image for Feyre.
102 reviews244 followers
February 21, 2018
They weren't meant to be broken.
They were meant for the broken
to follow.”
― Jason Reynolds, Long Way Down


Long Way Down is a novel written in verse that tells the story of fifteen-year-old Will who seeks to venge his murdered brother Shawn. But as he takes the elevator down, with a gun tucked in his pants, it stops on each floor and a ghost from Will's past enters, all victims of gun violence, but will that be enough to change his mind ?
This was a powerful and unique book , but the reason I’m giving it 3 stars is because it somehow missed the mark for me. What had me was the ENDING! I was not expecting it at all and was a little bit annoyed.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,919 reviews33.1k followers
June 23, 2020
4 stars
“Are you coming?”

Short, heart wrenching, and powerful. I’ll definitely be reading more from Reynolds. This is written in verse and narrated by the author. It’s real, raw, and heartbreaking. I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Hilly 🎐.
710 reviews1,325 followers
August 14, 2021
2.5 stars

It was okay?
I think I expected too much from this one. I did enjoy the way the author narrates the audiobook, but it was too fast for me to get attached to the story or the characters. I had trouble visualizing the setting for some reason, the writing style in verse lacked something for me.
I understand why many people love this book, the topic is hard hitting and extremely important. I’m definitely not taking anything away from that. Stories like this must be told. I’m just sad it wasn’t for me.
The ending left a mark, even if I didn’t love this short story.

edit: to the men people telling me I read this book wrong~your comments will be deleted. I don’t tolerate self-absorbed people who go out of their way commenting on my review because they think theirs is the only right opinion. So don’t even bother and do something else with that time.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 17,892 reviews

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