As my regular readers know, I make an effort to feature POC authors on the blog regularly. Still, since this month is Black History Month, I figure there’s no harm in putting a little extra spotlight on some recent books by Black authors. Here’s the first feature: a review of the graphic novel version of Long Way Down, which I was very excited to get my hands on!
Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds
Illustrator: Danica Novgorodoff
Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books on October 13, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Graphic Novel, Verse
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: YA (Mature themes such as murder and some mature language)
Jason Reynolds’s Newbery Honor, Printz Honor, and Coretta Scott King Honor–winning, #1 New York Times bestselling novel Long Way Down is now a gripping, galvanizing graphic novel, with haunting artwork by Danica Novgorodoff.
Will’s older brother, Shawn, has been shot.
Will feels a sadness so great, he can’t explain it. But in his neighborhood, there are THE RULES:
No. 1: Crying. Don’t. No matter what.
No. 2: Snitching Don’t. No matter what.
No. 3: Revenge Do. No matter what.
But bullets miss. You can get the wrong guy. And there’s always someone else who knows to follow the rules…
I absolutely loved Long Way Down when I read it a few years ago, and my feelings didn’t change when reading this graphic novel version.
You can feel free to go read my full review of the original verse novel, but here are a couple of the highlights:
“I honestly don’t even know how to describe in words how I felt about this book. You almost just have to experience it for yourself to understand its brilliance.”
“This book gives lyrical resonance to the cyclical nature of violence in inner cities—a pattern that can be nearly impossible to break out of.”
So, let’s talk just a little bit about the graphic elements of the book and how the text compares to the original. I love that the graphic novel version opens this book up to a whole new audience. Some kids are drawn to verse novels because they feel less imposing than regular novels. The white space on the page is reassuring to some readers. But there will always be kids who are still intimidated by verse, even free verse. The graphic novel format of the book will help those readers to visualize the action and the emotion in a way they might not have otherwise been able to.
When a prose novel is reimagined in graphic format, you obviously lose most of the text. However, in verse novels, the text is much more spare. Because of this, the graphic novel version of Long Way Down is relatively faithful to the original verse novel, with some omissions where the meaning is portrayed graphically. Novgorodoff’s art highlights the emotion of the story and cleverly uses grayscale versus color to delineate between events in the past and the present. Pops of color (especially red) draw the reader’s eye and accentuate the violence of many of the circumstances of the book without becoming gory. The illustrations feel like a perfect match for Reynold’s compelling verse.
In the end, I recommend this book in all its formats. I need to take a listen to the audiobook next!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author and Illustrator
After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, Jason Reynolds moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home.
For a way-cooler bio, see Jason Reynold’s About page on his website.
Danica Novgorodoff is an artist, writer, graphic designer, and horse wrangler from Louisville, KY, currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Her books include A Late Freeze, Slow Storm, Refresh, Refresh (included in Best American Comics 2011), and The Undertaking of Lily Chen. Her art and writing has been published in Best American Comics, Artforum, Esquire, VQR, Slate, Orion, Seneca Review, Ecotone Journal, and many others. She was awarded a 2015 New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in Literature, and was named Sarabande Books’ 2016 writer in residence. She has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center, VCCA, Brush Creek, and Willapa Bay AiR.
I still need to read Long Way Down, but I’m excited to see that you really loved the graphic novel version too. I do love graphic novels, and it sounds like the illustrations really helped highlight the emotion in the book. Great review.
Oh, you definitely need to read this—either version is a wonderful choice!
I didn’t know there was a graphic novel version! I still haven’t read the original. The library waitlist has been massive for years. I should probably just buy myself a copy and see what the hype is about. 🙂
Now you have to choose which copy. Good luck with that! 🙂
I had read the original book, and it was super powerful. I love that there are so many different ways for people to enjoy this story. (I heard the audiobook is incredible)
I still need to listen to the audiobook. When I heard that Reynold’s narrates it himself, I was convinced I needed to experience that format too.
I just finished this book recently and I loved it. The graphics really added to the descriptions of the story, and it was incredible what Reynolds was able to tell in such a short period of time.
Oh wow, I hadn’t considered how a graphic version of a novel in verse would be different from a graphic version of a prose novel. Thanks for pointing that out! (And that said, I need to read more novels in verse. I’ve read classic epic poems for school, but I find the modern version fascinating.)
I loved the original as well (did the audio and Jason’s narration is amazing) and I need this too! I love how the art adds to the story.
I definitely need this in my life. I read this a couple of years ago, and have enjoyed it. Very short, yet powerful read.
This is one I’ve meant to read, although I’m not really a big fan of either novels in verse or graphic novels. But I did order copies of the graphic novel for my school library, so I might keep a copy at my desk to read when I get a chance. Great review!