This month’s FYA Book Club selection is Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Check out the discussion questions below! (Slight spoilers ahead.)
P.S. If you’ve already read the book, feel free to add any other discussion questions of your own in the comments!
The book contains discussions of gun-related violence and death/murder of children/adults, specifically in the Black community.
Will reminisces about a few childhood rituals that he and Shawn shared, like the Penny Drop and the “L” elevator button for “losers.” Did you have any favorite games or rituals when you were a kid?
1. Long Way Down is written in verse and the audiobook is read by the author himself. There’s even a graphic novel that came out in 2020. Reynolds stated he wrote the story in verse in such a way as to mimic the claustrophobic nature of the inside of an elevator and Will’s own one-track thought process. He narrated the audiobook because he knew no one else would get his words across like he could. Which modality did you read? Would you consider trying another format? If you read more than one, which modality do you think was most effective?
2. The book ends on an ambiguous note. How did you feel when it was over? What do you think happened after Will got to the lobby?
3. Of the “ghosts” Will meets, which of their stories affected you the most? Which ghost do you think “got to” Will the most?
4. “The Rules” (No crying, no snitching, always get revenge), in addition to other complicated issues like systemic racism and poverty, have perpetuated a cycle of violence that has informed so much of Will’s neighborhood and identity. What were your takeaways from Reynolds’ exploration of this reality?
5. How do you think toxic masculinity played a role in the story?
6. Reynolds, using Will’s voice, lays out a lot of truisms and unique metaphors. Were there any specific quotes that you highlighted because they spoke to you?
7. Did you think there was any significance to the time stamps at the start of each chapter, or was it just a storytelling device?