Saturday, February 20, 2021

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel

Long Way Down was originally published as a verse novel, and it has received multiple awards and honors. It is about a young man named Will whose brother Shawn was murdered and his vow to avenge his death. In his life he has been indoctrinated to follow three rules: No crying. No snitching. Revenge. As he rides down the elevator in his building, armed with a gun, he is visited in ways that make him more aware of his life, his surroundings, and the cycle of violence that affects both. It is a powerful tale that examines the very real circumstances many young people, and all of us, face in our lives.

Adapting a novel into a graphic novel is a tricky enterprise, and I feel that in order for it to be successful the images really need to bring something to the table. I think that is exactly the case here, as the water-colored paintings enhanced the delivery of the lyrical text, bringing feelings and events into sharper relief. I feel that the overall pacing of this book, as well as the evocative drawings that add elements of mystery, pathos, and uncertainty to the narrative, contribute to make a very powerful impact. This book is riveting and provocative, and aptly ends in a way that settles none of the complicated issues that it confronts. I know that ambivalent endings can be maddening for some readers, but here it seems not only appropriate but necessary.

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel was written by Jason Reynolds and drawn by Danica Novgorodoff. Reynolds is a bestselling author of many novels, including All American Boys, the Track series, For Everyone, and Miles Morales: Spider-man. Novgorodoff is a designer/artist who has drawn multiple picture books and graphic novels, including The Undertaking of Lily Chen and Refresh Refresh. Both creators speak about their work on this adaptation in this interview.

This book has received many rave reviews, including the three starred entries here: Kirkus Reviews called it "a moving rendition that stands on its own." In School Library Journal Alea Perez concluded, "Reynolds’s words paint pictures of their own in this tragic yet poignant illustrated tale that offers no answers to the seemingly impossible choices some communities face." Sarah Hunter wrote in Booklist that "Novgorodoff’s iteration powerfully cultivates the tone and mood of its source material, demonstrating just how effective and artful comics can be."

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel was published by Atheneum, and they have a preview and more info about it here.

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