Title: Look Both Ways
Author: Jason Reynolds
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary/Short Stories
Release Date: October 8th 2019 from Simon & Schuster
Format: Library audio book
Narrators: January LaVoy, Guy Lockard, J.D. Jackson, Bahni Turpin, Jason Reynolds, Heather Alicia Simms, Chris Chalk, Kevin R. Free, Adenrele Ojo and David Sadzin
Listening Time: 3 hours, 58 minutes
Goodreads Synopsis: From National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds comes a novel told in ten blocks, showing all they different directions a walk home can take.
This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy—
Talking about boogers.
Stealing pocket change.
Executing complicated handshakes.
Planning an escape.
But mostly, too busy walking home.
Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.
When I read Long Way Down by this author years ago, I knew that I was reading an author that was destined to be a writer. Jason Reynolds has a voice that is at points so raw but also unique and one that demands to be heard. So when I saw that he wrote a short middle grade book, as well as seeing many familiar narrators attached to this audio book, I had to give it a listen. With each narrator taking one of the ten stories in here, we get stories of a group of kids that go to the same school and how some of them connect. But while this wasn’t a 5 star read for me, this audio book was brilliantly produced and Reynolds once again brings fantastic word choices and honest perspectives to these stories. This book, while short, has a lot of great talking points for parents and kids as well to teach them about different kids’s lives and also to show them that they might not be alone if they struggle with a particular fear or issue.
One thing that I loved about some of these stories is that they went in unexpected directions. You think, as the story goes, that it might go a certain way but to my surprise, they go to an even better ending. One example of this is the story of three kids that are known for stealing loose change, You have certain expectations set up as the story develops, but this one ended up being a favorite story once you reach the end. THIS is great storytelling, with twisting the reader’s expectations by the end of the story and having that great punch of surprise at the end. There’s also so much heart in this collection stories. I also liked the story of a girl who loves telling jokes and the relationship with her grandfather. They share a connection of jokes and while some people view this girl as one who just wants attention and has a strange sense of humor, you see who she really is by the end of the story.
The other thing that I love about this collection is that it reminded me of when I was a kid! When we were young, we were wanting to belong with the other kids, nervous about boys or girls we liked, rumors that can spread about us or even how we feel isolated because we’re hurting or because of our interests. Reynolds doesn’t shy away from having topics like divorce, cancer, first crushes and death of a family member and how these things change kids lives. They don’t see the world the same anymore after something tragic happens and they wonder how they can keep going on with life. The last story in particular about finding comfort was so heartfelt and a great way to close out the stories. Kids do face a lot of challenges and the author shows us that they do face tough things and shows how it can affect them. It’s stories like this that can remind adults how kids are so much more than they appear and for kids to show them that someone sees them as they are and that’s thing that was great to feel and hear in the words.
Now I will say that a couple stories did get lost on me as far as not understanding why they were in there. A couple were very simple compared to others and I didn’t get on why they were in the collection. Also, this didn’t have the factor that made me want to keep listening. It did take me longer than I expected to finish this and maybe it’s due to my weird audio book mood or something but this did move slowly enough that I didn’t consume it all right away.
Overall: With a brilliant audio book production and emotional threads, this was a really solid collection of stories. While hard topics are talked about in here, I think that this will resonate with so many kids who face similar issues and hopefully they’ll feel noticed. Again, this book also has great talking points that parents and kids can discuss. Reynolds also continues to show that he was destined to be a writer! I can’t wait to check out more of his work and I’m glad that I listened to this book 🙂
Also I want to add a couple own voices reviews/a video from the author talking briefly about the book! Own voices perspectives and reviews are so important and I hope you enjoy these!
Rating: .5 stars
Have you read/listened to this book? What did you think of it? Are there other books by Jason Reynolds that you would recommend?