Our tutor, Ms. Schlink, introduced ⇒ Jason Reynolds‚ novel “Long Way Down” to our English Advanced Course. Most of us were astonished by the plot and especially the setting, an elevator, which is rather unusual. Essentially, the novel deals with revenge, gunfire and the demise of people, who have always been important for the 15-year-old protagonist, Will. He’s being haunted by their spirits, who join him on his journey in the elevator. All in all, Will wants to find the person, who is responsible for his older brother’s death, Shawn. For people, who don’t like reading, it might be a good point to mention that you can finish reading the novel in only 45 minutes, because it’s written in verse. The book is a novel-length narrative which is told through the medium of poetry.
After talking about the novel in detail, we decided to attend the author’s reading for young adults at the International Literature Festival in Berlin on 14th September 2018. The reading took place in a building called “Große Bühne”. Basically, Reynolds‘ read some excerpts from his book and answered questions. After everyone was seated, the host (Toby Ashraf) introduced himself and, of course, the author. Shortly after, Reynolds‘ was asked to tell the audience something about himself. He mentioned that he didn’t read a single book until the age of 17, which is why he can relate to children and young adults and their lack of interest in books. When he bought his first rap mixtape (by Queen Latifah) back in the 80s, he realized that the lyrics in the back of the CD are structured in verse, just like a poem. He came to the realization that music is a different type of poetry. This is the reason, why he first got interested in literature.
Although Reynolds‘ didn’t succeed in becoming a popular author from the beginning of his career, he continued to write books and promote them in different countries. Following an advice from a friend, he writes about one thing he knows like the back of his hand: black neighborhoods. This includes discrimination, gun violence, social problems, etc. I personally think that’s great because there aren’t many books that deal with these important topics or problems. Plus, the novel (“Long Way Down”) might inspire or even help people (e.g. who live or grow up in a bad neighborhood).
Anyhow, we all thought it was captivating to listen to the author reading different parts from the book, because it’s different to reading something silently on your own. When he was talking about something or answering questions, his choice of words, which was slang language most of the time, made it easier for the audience to listen to him, because colloquial language is common among young adults and you didn’t feel like a teacher was lecturing you. The reason, why we attended the reading, is probably because our tutor wanted us to realize that everyone, no matter where they come from, can be successful in their life and career, as long as you won’t stop trying.
When the event ended we went home inspired by Reynolds‘ story, his latest novel and his advice for young adults. He emphasized that not all books are boring or objective like the ones we read at school. There are many books that can entertain, motivate, help or inspire you. And if you can’t find a book, which describes your situation, your views, ambitions or any other specific topic you’d like to read about, not only for you, but for posterity, you should write your own book.
Based on the personal background of Reynolds‘, who was inspired by rap music, writes about real life experience and that his latest book is written in verse, you can conclude that everyone can become a successful author. All you need is a good idea for the plot and a little bit knowledge about poetry or another kind of literature you know well.
Sladjana N., 1. Sem.