Book review: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, by Jason Reynolds

Reynolds, Jason. Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781481438308. 188 pages. Ages 10-14. P8 Q8

This book is a set of ten separate short stories, but the characters are connected; they all go to the same school. Each chapter is titled with the name of a street, and the stories are about the kids walking home to that part of the neighborhood. There are chapters about friends, bullies, family drama and first loves, all told through the eyes of young people. Some are laugh out loud funny, and others are heart breaking. On Placer St. we meet the the Low Cuts, four friends with many things in common including qualifying for free lunch, and parents who were cancer survivors. These shared experiences made them tough, yet we learn how leaning on friends makes tough times better. The stories capture the social lives of inner city middle school students perfectly. Verdict: a great book for middle school and the J Fiction section of the library. Friends play such a huge role in the lives of middle schoolers and this book focuses on those important relationships.

December 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds

Reynolds, Jason. Long Way Down. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2017. 320p. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-1481438254. Gr.9-12.  P8 Q9

This book is written in verse, and it is really easy to read and get into.  The message here – that violence only gives way to more violence – is dramatically portrayed during a seven-story descent in an elevator, where the ghosts of friends and family talk to the leading character, Will. Will gets in the elevator with a gun, ready to revenge his brother’s killing.  He comes out of the elevator – 200 or so pages later in the book, but only a minute later in reality – a changed man.  The story is told through Will and his ghosts, and even though it portrays a gang life I have never experienced, the characters were very real to me.  I got interested in the author after reading it and found out that this was the life he had experienced.  He wanted to bring a message to kids who might not read well or want to read a lot of boring words.  He did a great job of telling a complicated story and making it be real.

April 2018 review by NHS student.

[Editor’s note: 2018 awards: Coretta Scott King Author Award, John Newbery honor book, Michael L. Printz honor book.]