2018 Honor: Long Way Down

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 4/5

Jason Reynolds’¬†Long Way Down is the type of book I wish I had been assigned to read in freshmen year of high school. It has everything you need for a great teen school novel – a trending and impactful theme, inherent symbolism and an unconventional narrative device.

The plot is simple: 15-year-old Will, who is currently in an elevator descending to the bottom floor of his building, has to decide whether he’ll follow the unspoken rules of the community and avenge his brother’s murder – or walk away and break the cycle of violence.

Told in verse, the story delves into the emotions and mindset of someone who has lost many friends and family members to murders and random shootings throughout his life, and Will’s 60 second elevator ride brings him to the tipping point. The verse is less poetry and more like a script which makes his inner dialogues more interesting to read. This book really stands out from the countless other young adult novels that are currently being published due to its narrative structure.

The only reason this didn’t get a 5/5 from me was because I’m not the biggest fan of verse and the ending is super abrupt.

This 2018 Newbery Honor was a very quick and thought-provoking read. Its themes make it more suitable for a teen audience than a middle school one in my opinion, but it explores a heavy topic in an accessible and unique way.

Advertisements

2018: Hello, Universe (it’s a small, small world)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 3.5/5

Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe¬†is an adventure tale about a group of children who band together despite not knowing each other to find a boy who fell down a well trying to rescue his pet guinea pig.

What I liked:

  • A diverse cast of characters who aren’t always prominently featured in children’s books. Each characterization was very distinct, despite all characters being children, and the point of view changes between each chapter were seamless.
  • Valencia Somerset’s point of view – an interesting mesh of religiosity, her experiences being deaf, and her curiosity and naievete about the world.
  • The plot was quick-paced with a good build up to the central conflict.
  • Animals (including a guinea pig, squirrel, dog and snake) are all featured in the main adventure and will make animal lovers feel warm and fuzzy.

What I didn’t like:

  • This is definitely a children’s book. As an adult reader, I didn’t find much substance in its themes, and the narrative style is written more for a fifth and sixth grade audience. For children this is definitely a plus, but I didn’t get a whole lot out of the book.
  • Kaori. I’m not the biggest fan of faux fortune teller fictional characters that believe fully in their powers. I found her enthusiasm slightly grating.

Overall, Hello, Universe provides some mindless, adventurous fun featuring a diverse cast of characters.