Long Way Down - Jason Reynolds
Imagine your brother was just shot and killed. What would you do? For 15-year old Will, that involves pointing his brother’s gun at his killer. But on the elevator ride down, Will gets visited by 7 ghosts from his past. I won’t say anything further to avoid spoilers, but just know that things get weird. Very weird. I liked the way Jason Reynolds used a free-verse poem format, which he used to convey expression in a way that standard writing couldn’t. The book mainly focuses on the idea that revenge and killing people isn’t the solution to your problems, which is a theme I’m sure we’ve all seen before, but it was refreshing to see a more grounded approach. Every part of the book made you feel like you were really there, as if this could have really happened. Well, except for the whole Christmas Carol part. Jason Reynolds has always said his mission was to make stories that people could see themselves in, and in this case, he did. Long Way Down is a short read, but what it does contain will make you want more.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man - Jason Reynolds
Before Miles Morales became a household name, he was fairly unknown, which was pretty disappointing. Fortunately, long before Sony’s Into the Spider-Verse came into theaters, fans found their fix in Jason Reynolds’s YA novel. When I first read it, I didn’t know what to expect, other than Spider-Man in a climactic battle for the city, with chaos and destruction ensuing all around him. That was not what I got. What was in the book was much better. In this story, Miles Morales is struggling. He just lost his scholarship at his school, his racist teacher humiliates him and makes him do things no person should, and, worst of all, he’s starting to think he might turn into a criminal. The book has a solid story and themes that are more important today than ever, such as how Miles takes part in a protest against his teacher, pointing out that he’s human, too. Towards the end of the book, it becomes pretty obvious who the villain is, though it’s pretty easy to figure it out from the beginning, too. The battle was interesting, but it left me with more questions than answers. Other than that, however, I’d give this book a 9/10.
Ghost - Jason Reynolds
The first time I heard of Ghost, I’ll admit that I wasn’t that interested in it. A story about a kid on a track team? I’m not much of a sports guy, but now, after reading Ghost, I kinda want to be. Ghost features a boy named Castle Cranshaw, who calls himself Ghost. He is, for the most part, a pretty normal dude. He lives in a not-so-great part of town, but that’s ok, because he and his mom don’t really have to worry about crime. Except for when his alcoholic dad pulled a gun on them. Ghost’s life stays mostly the same afterward - well, as same as you can get after your dad gets arrested for trying to shoot you. His life’s pretty uneventful until he decides to crash a track meet and one-up their star athlete. Then, the track coach offers him a spot on the team. From there, things really kick off. Ghost is, more than anything, a coming of age story. This is a story about a kid who makes mistakes, a kid who doesn’t come from the best background, someone that young black men can see themselves in, and I think that’s why this book is so great: it’s relatable. If you haven’t read Ghost, I highly suggest that you do, because this might be the most down-to-earth a book can get.
Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 1
I think that graphic novels are underrated. Sure, Amulet and a few others get some glory, but there are some real undiscovered gems when it comes to graphic novels. Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates is the perfect example of this. Imagine Captain America, the answer to what happens when you cross George Washington superpowers, getting brainwashed into becoming a fascist dictator. Ok, now imagine him being un-brainwashed, but no one believes that, and newer threats are forming, but the nation can’t support the Captain anymore. This story is great, not only because of the whole “Cap was evil but I don’t think he is anymore” idea, but because how relevant it is to today’s world. Through Captain America’s eyes, we see an America that willingly works with known criminals, claiming to have been “reformed,” all through the veil of politics. This isn’t just a story about a symbol of hope being tarnished; this is a story about politics and corruption. So, essentially, it’s the story of the current US government, but in a comic book. Once again, this is the perfect example of why graphic novels are underrated. Believe it or not, this is not the deepest the rabbit hole goes, with graphic novels like Kingdom Come expressing the generational divide, Secret Empire showcasing themes like hope and how not everyone’s the way that they seem, and the list goes on. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: this book is a masterpiece.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows Vol. 1: Brawl In The Family - Gerry Conway
For the Parkers, life’s pretty good. They’re making ends meet, their young daughter is a saint, and their jobs are getting better and better. Did I mention that they all have spider powers? That’s right, Spider-Man is now a trio act. This story is a cross between The Incredibles and Spider-Man, and is just a lot of fun. I didn’t think too much of this at first, mainly because I didn’t read a lot of Spider-Man, but this story was surprisingly good. It was pretty cool to see a crime-fighting family, which we’ve only seen once before with Superman and his son. All in all, this story is a great read with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart.