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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Diversity in Literature, Middle Grade Readers, Young Adult Readers

LOOK BOTH WAYS by Jason Reynolds

Usually I enjoy Jason Reynold’s work. Look Both Ways? Not so much. Part of my problem–I think–were my expectations of the book. The jacket copy read:

Jason Reynolds weaves ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.

I did find there to be some ‘piercingly poignant’ moments sprinkled throughout the stories, but I did not find anything I would call ‘wickedly funny.’ My biggest problem is the implication(or it could have been just my assumption from reading the blurb) that all ten stories are connected as one in some way. I expected there to be some sort of concluding event or insight that would pull all ten stories together and that didn’t happen. Some of the stories moved in and out of each other, but when that happened they were usually connected only by coincidence, not content.

If Look Both Ways is meant to be an exploration of what happens to multiple characters in a specific moment in time who all share a geographic location, the book succeeds. I think it succeeds, as well, in making the case for the idea that we don’t know the circumstances with which someone else is coping. It is therefore incumbent upon us to adjust our behavior toward and judgment about each other accordingly with patience, compassion and understanding.

In my local library Look Both Ways is shelved in the YA section, but it reads at a much more middle-grade level. Look Both Ways is a great read for middle graders if you’re emphasizing the thoughts mentioned above, or in a classroom exploring various points of view surrounding the same (or similar) chronological moments.


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