Review: Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted a review, and I apologize. Let me open this one by saying that while I’ve met the author a couple of times and hearing him speak at conventions always gets me fired up for bookselling, for some reason this is the first book of his I read. That was my mistake.

I listened to Look Both Ways as a digital audiobook. Having not read it in the traditional format, I can’t say this definitively, but I think audio is the way to go. There is a different narrator for each of the ten interwoven stories, and it gives the book a unique feel. I really enjoyed the listening experience.

This book is interesting in that it brings the short story format to middle grade. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I haven’t read any. We follow ten kids whose lives intersect in various ways, but their stories are each their own. As a parent of kids growing up in firmly middle class suburbia who herself grew up in firmly middle class suburbia, I’m glad I read this book, and I’m glad to have it to share with my younger boys as they get older. It’s not a devastating view of a harder life, but it is a realistic view of kids whose lives are different than my sons’ will be.

As a bookseller, I hear a lot of talk about windows and mirrors, and even use some of it myself in simplified conversations. This book is a much needed window for my family and mirror for others. The fact is, though, that all books expand your worldview if they’re well written enough to put you inside a character, and this once is certainly that.

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