Book Review: Long Way Down

Book Review: Long Way Down

Misha Ankudovych

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a gripping tale about a 15-year-old who has all of 60 seconds to make the largest decision possible: should he get revenge on his brother’s killer? His decision is shaped by the perspective of various ‘ghosts’ of whom he discusses the decision with. This all culminates, unfortunately, in a lackluster ending that lacks a clear meaning. 

Long Way Down shines best in its ability to combine different forms of literature in order to tell one story. Placed diligently throughout the book, the various poems and melodic speaking are a callback to his beginnings of writing. These poems offer a sometimes much needed change of pace, allowing the reader to remove themselves from the heavy contents of the novel. 

The structure of the novel allows for a quick exchange of characters, that, at its best, keeps the reader engaged, and at its worst, leads to a lack of character development for anyone other than the main character, Will. There are four characters who enter the elevator with Will, placed far enough away to tell stories that directly relate to him, but not enough for any meaningful development or callbacks to take place. In Long Way Down, supplemental characters feel more like a vessel for plot points to be communicated, rather than a living, breathing character. This is exacerbated by the fact that none of the characters seem to have any connection to each other, besides the fact that they are tied to Will’s history. 

If the supplementary characters of the story are seen as vehicles, then the ending has essentially stripped them all of their engines and wheels. The story ends on a cliffhanger that feels more fit for the last episode of a Netflix original series slated for a season 2, rather than the meaningful novel it attempts to be. By refusing to state the decision of the main character at the end of the novel, Reynolds manages to make the already meaningless characters have less of a purpose, seeing as it is impossible to gauge which of them Will listened to in making his final decision. 

Long Way Down is a decent novel that shines in its ability to tell an untraditional tale in an untraditional way, however, it falls short in the way of leaving a significant impact on the reader, both through its lackluster supplemental characters and meaningless ending.