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Jason Reynolds - our Author of the Month

In a word, Jason Reynolds is a genius. A true magician of words and ideas whose books never fail to fire the imaginations (and capture the hearts) of even the most reluctant readers, while also stimulating devoted bookworms.

Alongside garnering an enthusiastic following of young readers (from eight-year-olds right through to young adults), Reynolds’ rare talent has seen the Washington-born writer win a raft of prestigious awards, among them the Carnegie Medal for Look Both Ways. Jason has also won an incredible collection of top US awards. For example, his novel-in-verse Long Way Down was named a Newbery Honor book, a Printz Honor Book, and best young adult work by the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Awards. Ghost won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the American Library Association's Best Fiction for Young Adults, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Work. We could go on (and on — these are just a few examples), and his latest novel, When I Was the Greatest, looks set to attract similar acclaim.

Whether writing for eight-year-olds, or young adults, in prose or in verse, Reynolds has a magic touch for creating authentic characters readers relate to, and believe in. Characters whose lives, experiences and actions make us think, “yeah, I get that. I understand what they’re going through, how they feel, why they did what they did”, even when they mess up. Maybe especially when they mess up — flawed characters we feel empathy for have the greatest impact. We relate to them all the more. We wince and holler at their mistakes, then feel all the more satisfied when they pull through and come good. Which is exactly how readers feel about Reynolds’ characters. They’re real. They’re relatable. They make you laugh, cry, gasp and think. Everything you’d hope for from a story, right?

Another of Jason’s remarkable talents is being able to write for such a broad range of age groups, and in such a diversity of styles, with each of his books perfectly-pitched for the intended age group. And no matter what age he’s writing for, Reynolds is always honest. He never talks down, never shirks from telling the truth, even when that truth isn’t always pretty. That said, his writing is always infused with compassion. His books nourish and support as they edify and entertain.

Here’s an overview of some of our favourite Jason Reynolds books. We’ve adored each and every one of them, so head here to explore them all.

Ghost - 9+ We said: “This first book in the four-part Run series is a world-class middle grade story with all the witty tenderness of Louis Sachar and a whole lot of heart, humour and edge-of-your-seat action…Ghost’s voice is endearingly authentic, honest and funny.”

Look Both Ways - 11+ We said: “Ten blocks, ten tales, and whole world of heartfelt humanity, Reynolds has done it again in these emotionally authentic interlinked stories about a set of kids making their way home from school… Bittersweet, hard-hitting and powerfully perceptive, these pitch-perfect reader-centric stories shine a light on oft-overlooked lives and ring with empathy and authenticity”.

The Boy in the Black Suit Young Adults We said: “Riveting, resonant and profound, this YA wonder explores the rawness of grief and the transformational power of solidarity”.

All American Boys - Young Adults We said: “An immensely powerful, timely novel about police brutality against young Black men. Shining a stark light on white privilege and the racism implicit in not speaking out, it’s a punch-packing wake-up call for us all to stand up and plant ourselves on the right side of history”.

Long Way Down - 13+, Young Adults (graphic novel version also available) We said: “A gripping, ground-breaking novel-in-verse about gun violence, grief and breaking cycles. The writing is crisp, clever and dazzlingly compact, and Chris Priestley’s raw and resonant illustrations are hauntingly powerful”.

And When I Was the Greatest, reviewed by Joy Court, our LoveReading4Schools Editorial Expert : "His books are highly accessible, with a relaxed vernacular style which is unmistakeably authentic and genuine. The black characters in his books come from a range of backgrounds and may face difficult issues, but are not defined by them. He writes thought provoking, important books but these are not in any sense "issue" books. He has said “I write to Black children, but I write for all children.” Without any doubt all children should be given the opportunity to read them."

Jason says: "Here's what I know: I know there are a lot - A LOT - of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don't actually hate books, they hate boredom. So here's what I plan to do: NOT WRITE BORING BOOKS."

Find a selection of books from Jason Reynolds below.

Photo credit James L Reddington.

Long Way Down

Long Way Down

13+ readers YA readers

Author: Jason Reynolds Illustrator: Chris Priestley Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2018

Winner of UKLA Shortlist Book Awards 2019 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Will is only fifteen but he’s experienced more violence and loss than most people might in an entire lifetime. His big brother Shawn was recently shot dead, right in front of him, but as “everybody knows”, “gunshots make everybody/deaf and blind especially/when they make somebody/dead”. While his mom mourns, “sobbing into her palms”, Will knows what he has to do. He must follow the three rules: No crying. No snitching. Revenge. Armed with Shawn’s gun, Will heads down six floors in an elevator on his revenge mission, thinking he knows exactly who he’s going after. When the “spooky ass” elevator stops at each floor and ghosts from the past step into the “vertical coffin”, doubts set in as Will is presented with more facts and finally comes face to face with some big choices (do some rules need to be broken? Does he want out of the cycle?), and more besides. The writing is crisp, clever and dazzlingly compact, with a whole family history and personally-charged societal issues conveyed with powerful precision. The line and page breaks are perfectly constructed, words and phrases frequently have multiple meanings, and Chris Priestley’s raw and resonant illustrations are hauntingly powerful.

ebook of the month

Comments (12)

Ian Y - 17th March 2022

A fascinating insight into an active mind.

Richard T - 13th March 2022 this once we get a chance

Angela N - 5th March 2022

I had not heard of Jason Reynolds before reading this interview. I can see that I would do well to invest in some of his books for our school library!

Susan B - 2nd March 2022

What a rare and wonderful talent! Unsurprising that he has won so many awards.

Fatima H - 21st February 2022

Excellent reads

Karen P - 21st February 2022

Love all of Jason's books. Can't wait to read the latest one

amy f - 20th February 2022

Some great reads xx

Laura P - 20th February 2022

My son would enjoy these books!

Marion G - 19th February 2022

Will definitely be buying this book, think I may also suggest that my grandchildren's school gets a few copies too. Great author.

Nur S - 19th February 2022

I absolutely loved Ghost and Look Both Ways. Keep writing. You feel richer for reading them

Susie W - 18th February 2022

As a youth worker, I know that often books are not appealing because the young people can not relate, these books break down that barrier, which is great!

Jamie M - 16th February 2022

An insightful and entertaining interview. I've never heard of the author or read any of his books, but now, as a good interview should do I really want to. I want to know how he uses words in such a clever way. I also liked the comment that described himself similar to Louie Sachar, as I love his books. Another book on the TBR pile! Thanks.

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