In One Word

In One Word, Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds and Danica Novgorodoff is…

long way down

  • Published in 2022 by Atheneum Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Reading Time: 1 breath-taking day


  • Made the decision to buy this when I saw it in my local independent bookshop because I’d watched an Extra Credits video on it. Since two brothers are at the heart of the story, I decided to make it my ‘book with siblings’ for the Studio Ghibli Reading Challenge. Will’s brother, Shawn, was shot in front of him and it doesn’t matter how destroyed he feels. The neighbourhood has the Rules for situations like this: don’t cry, don’t snitch and always get revenge. Will is sure he knows who did it and has Shawn’s gun at the ready to fulfil the third Rule. He just has to take the elevator down from his eighth floor apartment home – but the people who get on start asking him very searching questions and Will is confronted with the terrible consequences that could befall him if he follows the Rules.
  • Opened this book with the plot fairly well spoiled thanks to the aforementioned Extra Credits video but it still had a few good shocks. I think anyone going into this unspoiled will find lots of twists and turns with every floor. You never know who will get on next until the door opens but you will be in an agony of suspense at the end of every chapter. The story of Will’s family and how the Rules have destroyed the people around him slowly unfolds with every person who gets in the elevator. Just when you think you have the story straight, the elevator door opens and you find that Will or someone else had it all wrong.
  • Very good choice of illustration style. The watercolour style deliberately bleeds outside the lines, giving some scenes a dreamlike feeling. Often, the characters’ faces are obscured with black ‘nighttime’ or grey smoke, making it seem even more unreal, which plays into the story perfectly. What the book does particularly well is the gun sound effects. They are in bright red letters across the page that draw the eye and stand out like fire amid the generally subdued palette of the other pages.
  • It’s an abridged version and I’ll definitely be checking out the full version on audiobook (I have a feeling this book is best when read aloud) at some point but what is here is beautifully written with some lovely quotable moments. I bet this would make a great play too.
  • Nice exploration of all the consequences of gun violence and toxic masculinity. In a way, it’s rather like a modern, non-holiday-specific version of A Christmas Carol except these are all ghosts of the past and this feels a lot less preachy. Crucially, it never feels like the author is judging Will for wanting to get revenge for his brother or that he’s judging any of the other characters who used a gun. The author adds the right amount of nuance to each character’s story that make them all feel real and relatable. It’s not a morality tale. It’s a human tale.
  • Got through that in one sitting and that open ending left me with a lot to think about. I have no doubt that it’ll leave you with plenty to think about too. I’d highly recommend this to anyone who likes books that make them think and that deals with a very sensitive issue in a mature way.

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Did you agree with my rating? Can you think of a better word to describe it? Please let me know with a like, share or comment.

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