IMWAYR: Long Way Down

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It was so nice of RivetedLit to pass along a free reading of Jason Reynold’s LONG WAY DOWN yesterday. This title has been on my pile, but this was the perfect opportunity to sit down and read. I’m so glad I did! This is a new YA (Young Adult) book about urban youth, gangs, inner struggles, and decisions. All I could say to my family when I finished was, “Wow!”

When Will’s brother, Shawn, is shot in the neighborhood, Will decides (at age 15) he’s old enough to take care of this gang issue himself. He takes Shawn’s gun out of hiding, and heads to the streets. But as Will waits for the apartment building elevator to travel 8 floors down to the lobby, he is reminded again and again that it is a “long way down” and that he might just be the next victim. Will he take the necessary steps to follow “The Rules?”
A MUST-READ: thought-provoking, harrowing, and deep. Jason Reynolds does it again — uses a few carefully-selected words to tell an engaging story. I finished in one sitting, and I’ll bet you will, too. I also bet this one will stay with me (and you) for a long, long time.

IMWAYR: As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

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Jason Reynolds is one of my go-to authors for choice reading, with engaging and interesting characters, unique settings, and storylines that keep me thinking for months after I finish a story. As Brave As You is another hit on the list. 

In the opening scene, 2 brothers are scooping up dog poop and flinging it at trees in the woods behind Grandma and Grandpa’s house. What middle grade child wouldn’t want to keep reading? Genie and Ernie, Jr. are Brooklyn-raised brothers who are spending time in North Hill, Virginia for a month while Mom and Dad try to work out some issues. City boys in the country? Bound to be adventures. And there are many adventures — and family secrets —  to discover.

A young lady, Tess, catches Ernie’s eye as a neighbor and friend. She makes her own jewelry to sell at the flea market, she’s smart, and she’s funny. The more the plot moves forward, the more you see Ernie and Tess together. Country life isn’t all easy, though. Getting up early to do chores (choosing peas to pick at just the right moment), taking care of Samantha, the dog, and watching out for the family are tasks that sometimes overwhelm Genie, especially. Genie is curious and asks many questions (which he records in his notebook), which may or may not lead to each new adventure — and maybe even get him into some trouble.

My favorite part of this book so far is how the characters remind me so much of my own grandma and grandpa. Memories of childhood revisited: Grandma teaching the kids the right way to do chores, Grandpop eating a whole apple (core and all!), and playing outside with the dog. As the story moves, the reader moves, too, along the path of discovery of what it means to be brave.

I continue to read tonight, to find more answers with Genie, and to treasure my last few moments of summer with this family in Virginia. When you get a chance, pick up As Brave As You, and enjoy your own adventure with Genie and Ernie.