Being allowed to walk home from school without an adult is a rite of passage for all children, it is that first glimmer of freedom. Delivering a book that is engaging, heart-felt and incredibly readable, Jason Reynolds takes this premise and explores what life is like for the kids at Latimer Middle School once the home-time bell rings.
At Latimer Middle School, the bell rings for the end of another day and the hustle and bustle to get out begins. A cacophony of noise fills the corridors, lockers are opened and closed, buses wait out front, benches are gathered around, a teacher watches on and kids pour out of the front doors and onto the streets to make their journeys home.
Amongst the throng of kids the Low Cuts excitedly plan their next hustle, skate-boarding Pia stops for no-one or nothing and pocket-sized Kenzi hitches a piggy-back off the giant that is Simeon. On the crossing corner, Canton anxiously waits for his mother, Gregory Pitts builds up the courage to tell a girl how he feels and Cynthia ‘Say-so’ Sower prepares her next comedy performance. Nervous Satchmo plans to avoid a dog, BFF’s TJ and Yasmine laugh and joke, Bryson Wills sits at home and Fatima recites her walk-home checklist. Ten journeys home, ten different stories to tell…
With a huge dose of reality and strong themes of friendship, love and humour, this is a fantastic book that readers will quickly be drawn to. Reynolds focuses on a group of kids from the same neighbourhood and tells of their journeys home from school, and whilst they all may live on the same block, no walk home is quite like another. Out of the ever watchful eyes of teachers and parents, the walk home from school is a brief moment of freedom, a time for messing around, sharing problems and generally dealing with the challenges that life has thrown at them. Whether it be trying to raise money for a mum with cancer or plucking up the courage to speak to a girl, the kids are just trying to figure life out and live their best lives.
Moving, funny and poignant, the ten stories invite readers to take a very literal walk in someone else’s shoes. While each story is a standalone, there is some overlap as events or characters from one story sometimes appear in another. Each story is brilliant in its own right and it is a joy to meet the characters that are courageous, brave and feel oh so real. As Reynolds looks closely into the lives of his characters, he captures the parts of their lives that children often try to keep hidden as he reveals their personalities, heartaches, anxieties, highs and lows, good times and bad times, hopes, dreams and fears.
Bursting with emotion, authenticity and empathy, the stories deal with the real issues of friendship, bullying, sexuality, sick relatives, anxieties, domestic abuse, puberty, navigating middle school and lots of other trials and tribulations that are all part of growing up and developing from child to young adult. Reynolds is very skilled in handling all of these issues with a light-handed touch and includes plenty of humorous moments - an unfortunate use of vapo-rub when trying to impress a girl is a personal favourite. On more than one occasion, Reynolds leads the reader down a particular path only to drop a bombshell revelation at the end that completely alters the reader’s perception of the characters. ‘The Low Cuts Strike Again’ and ‘Five Things Easier to do than Simeon and Kenzi’s Secret Handshake’ both hit like a hammer to the heart.
Witty and clever, poignant and powerful, heart-breaking and humorous. Look Both Ways is a very unique and original book from an incredibly talented and one-of-a-kind author. Gripping, engrossing and essential reading, this is a walk around the block that is well worth taking.
Recommended for 10+.