Bethany is a certified Special Education and Elementary teacher with 11 years experience teaching Special Education from grades PK through 5. She has a Bachelor's degree in Special Education, Elementary Education, and English from Gordon College and a Master’s degree in Special Education from Salem State University.
Long Way Down
Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds, revolves around the main character Will, his family's history of vengeance, and Will's attempt to follow the rules on his quest for revenge.
What is the longest journey you've ever taken? For William Holloman (''Will'' to his friends) his long journey is one of revenge. Living in his neighborhood, Will feels bound by three rules:
- Do not cry
- Do not snitch
- Take revenge when a loved one is killed
Let's take a closer look at the plot.
The Preliminary Events
The day before yesterday Will and his friend Tony were outside talking when they heard shots. They ducked and hid, like they were trained to do, and when things quieted, they looked up to count the bodies. There was one body: Will's brother, Shawn, murdered on his way home from buying his mom's special eczema cream.
Will is convinced that Shawn was murdered by Riggs, a former friend who recently moved and joined the Dark Suns, a gang that operates in the same neighborhood as the store that sells Will's mother's eczema cream. As Will listens to his mother's sobs at home, he opens the middle drawer of Shawn's dresser, previously forbidden territory, and finds a gun. He resolves to follow rule number three and kill Riggs for killing Shawn.
The Elevator Ride
Will steps into the elevator outside his apartment on the eighth floor. When someone else joins him, the elevator ride begins to get strange. The man is Buck, a man who used to be like a big brother to Shawn, the man who gave Shawn the gun Will now carries, and a man Will knows to be dead. Buck asks Will his plans, checks to see if the gun is loaded, and tells Will regarding his revenge plan, ''You don't got it in you.'' Buck lights up a cigarette and leans against the back wall of the elevator.
At the next floor, a young woman enters the elevator, glances at Buck, and comments on the cigarette smoke. Will is surprised she can see Buck's ghost, but she brushes it off and asks about his gun. She pulls out a photograph and Will realizes she is Dani, his childhood friend whom he saw killed on the playground when they were eight years old. After Dani's death, Will cried and cried, and Shawn taught Will the rules. Dani questions Will's plan, seemingly very worried. ''What if you miss?''
The elevator door opens again, and large hands grab Will by the shirt then put him in a headlock. ''Nephew, after all this time you ain't learned to fight back yet?'' taunts the man. It's Will's Uncle Mark, who was killed when another drug dealer wanted his corner to sell drugs. Uncle Mark tries to walk Will through his plan step-by-step and Will finds he can't get past the part where he pulls out the gun. When he finally chokes out that after pulling out the gun, he shoots, Uncle Mark asks what happens next. ''Nothing. That's it. The end,'' Will says. Uncle Mark says, ''It's never the end. Never.''
Next onto the elevator is the man Will has been waiting for since he was three years old: Mikey Holloman, Will's father. According to Will's mother, Mikey died of a broken heart after his brother Mark's death. In the elevator, Mikey tells a different story. He says he was torn apart by Mark's death, and reluctantly followed rule three and went after the killer, killing the man he was sure killed Mark. It turned out he killed the wrong guy, a man named Gee. Mikey was shot for killing Gee, by someone else following rule three. At the end of his story, Mikey hugs Will, then grabs the gun and holds it to Will's head. Will screams, but no one responds. Finally, Mikey removes the gun, hugs Will, then steps back and grabs a cigarette from Buck, joining the crowd of ghosts in the back of the elevator.
At the next stop, a stranger gets on. Buck introduces the man as Frick, his murderer. Frick murdered Buck as the result of a botched gang initiation. He was just supposed to rob Buck, but then Frick pulled the trigger. And then Will learns that Shawn killed Frick for killing Buck.
The elevator stops at the second floor, the last stop before the lobby, where this nightmare elevator ride can end. At the last second before the doors close, someone slips into the elevator: Shawn. Shawn greets Buck, Dani, Mark, and Mikey, then turns to Will. Will tries to explain what's going on, but Shawn says nothing. Finally Shawn breaks down into messy, ugly tears, still without a word to Will.
The elevator reaches the lobby. The door opens, and all of Will's visitors rush out of the elevator. As Will hesitates, Shawn turns to him and speaks the final words of the novel, ''You coming?''
The question lingers. What happened next? Did Will cling to the rules, as did his family before him? Or did he heed the cautions from his elevator visitors, sensing the regret, and observing the endless path of destruction torn by bullet after bullet through the ranks of his family and friends? Did Shawn's final words absolve Will of the responsibility of revenge, or was Shawn pushing him to complete rule number three?
In the novel Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds, Will, the main character, has been taught to live by the rules: don't cry, don't snitch, and take revenge. After his brother Shawn's murder, Will sets out to get revenge on the killer, Riggs. As Will rides the elevator to the lobby, he is joined by several ghosts: Shawn's friend Buck who was killed by Frick in a gang initiation, Will's childhood friend Dani who was killed when they were eight, Will's Uncle Mark who died in a bad drug situation, Will's father Mikey who tried to kill Mark's killer and died for killing the wrong guy, Buck's killer Frick who was killed by Shawn, and finally, Shawn himself.
Will learns how each of the ghosts is connected with the rules, as they express surprise, sadness, skepticism, or regret at Will's plan. Shawn refuses to speak to Will in the elevator. The ending is ambiguous after Shawn's ghost breaks rule one by weeping in the elevator, then steps off the elevator and asks if Will is coming.
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