LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds a #CYBILS 📚🎶 


By Jason Reynolds

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

young adult, family, ghost stories, realistic fiction
CW: violence

Winner – Poetry
2018 CYBILS Awards

The Book

Long Way Down is a tour de force work of poetry. The entire novel in verse takes place on an elevator ride as a young man whose brother has been shot and killed descends to avenge his murder. Along the way, he is visited by the ghosts of those he has lost, the elevator filling with smoke as each enters to question, chide, taunt, and harangue him.

This masterful narrative structure and the claustrophobic setting in that metal box filled with smoke, ghosts, and words create a gripping tension and kinetic energy that make Long Way Down nearly impossible to put down. Jason Reynolds’s spare, lyrical language and gorgeous, mesmerizing imagery stay with you and compel re-reading and discussion. This novel in verse makes maximum use of the format, using the poem placement, the background art, and the free verse poems themselves all working in harmony.

Reynolds varies his approach to the poems to keep the tension high, repeating references, using anthropomorphism, and incorporating anagrams that startle, like a pause for a breath. His use of poetic language is vivid and powerful including: “how do you hug what’s haunting you?”, “another piece of me, an extra vertebra, some more backbone”, “headlock that felt like a hug”, and “pushing the pistol under my pillow like a lost tooth.” The questions this book raises about the cycle of violence and the responses it evokes also make Long Way Down a natural for discussion with young readers themselves.

Blurb by the 2018 Poetry Panel


The Music

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a YA book in verse. The harsh prose of the novel reflects the feelings of pain and loss of Will, a 15-year-old boy who has just heard of the death of his older brother. Will knows the rules – he needs to take revenge. Readers follow him as he steps into the elevator, on his way to avenging his brother. As Will descends, he speaks with the ghosts of his past – and ultimately decides on his future.

This playlist thematically parallels Will’s journey, and listeners will follow along with songs documenting musical artists’ harsh truth about the realities of cyclical gun violence within communities.

The Girl

Riya Fernando

Riya is thrilled to be able to combine two of her favorite things: books and music. She is an avid reader who can often be found with her nose in a murder mystery while listening to contemporary piano music, her favorite genre of piano music to listen to and play. She was introduced to CYBILS Awards through her mother, Category Chair and CYBILS Awards Board Member, who helped Riya cultivate her love for books. She hopes that others will love these playlists as much as she does!