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Long Way Down

Electrifying tale of urban gang life

Congratulations to Danica Novgorodoff, worthy winner of the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal 2022, for her stunning illustrative interpretation of Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Reynolds’ blistering American verse novel tells the story of Will, witness to his brother Shawn’s death in a turf war shooting. Schooled in the ways of gang life, Will believes his only option is bloody revenge. In an elevator ride encompassing a mere sixty seconds and seven floors, he will be forced to confront some long overdue truths.

‘The Rules weren’t meant to be broken. They were meant for the broken to follow.’

No crying, no snitching, just kill them. The rules to live and die by in the brothers’ gang-dominated neighbourhood. In the aftermath of Shawn’s murder, Will retrieves his older sibling’s gun from a drawer and heads for the 8th floor elevator, on traumatised auto-pilot.

Descending to the 7th floor, the doors open to admit a familiar but unexpected passenger. It’s Buck, Shawn’s oldest friend. Buck, walking and talking, when Will knows he was himself murdered in gang warfare. A dead man, a ghost is standing in front of him, and as the elevator doors close, Buck lights a cigarette and begins sharing some insights with the petrified Will.

On the 6th floor, the doors open to admit Dani, a former playmate of Will’s, accidentally shot dead in a gang related incident. She too, has points to make. Five floors to go, each ping of the elevator signalling another ghost and another story. What conclusions will Will reach by the time he exits the building?

This is an electrifying tale of revenge, decision-making, and the calamitous cycle of violence. Novgorodoff’s empathic ink and watercolour illustrations convey emotion beyond the reach of even the most powerful words. A brilliant piece of work, her graphic novel interpretation provides a welcome hook for those teens not usually drawn to books.

Suitable for older readers.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff and published by Faber and Faber, 208 pages.

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