Look Both Ways Book Shows Youth with Humor and Vulnerability
In an Instagram post, Jason Reynolds shares his notes during his writing process for Look Both Ways, his new book sharing moments students experience as they walk home from school. Each “tale” is a block on the walk, resulting in a total of 10 blocks. In the Instagram post, you can see his draft of this list including the emotion each one may provoke to the reader. The potential chapters/topics are listed next to emotions such as happy or sad/happy.
Reynolds definitely delivered on evoking emotions. In the first chapter, there's a very in-depth conversation on boogers! This fun exchange reveals a friendship between Jasmine and her best friend who just so happens to be a boy. I smiled while reading this chapter reminding me of own best friend, who always finds a way to make you laugh.
And then there are the Low Cuts. The ones who don’t have much financially but have some serious survival skills that will make you want to hire them for your own marketing team. They know how to make a little change go a long way, and the reason why they do this will leave activate that little soft spot in your heart.
The book slowly walks you into the reality of the experiences youth are facing on a daily basis from heartbreak, to losing a loved one, trying to fit in, anxiety and more. Fatima’s story really touched my heart. She might be a future journalist. She keeps a record of all the things she sees, in order to know when something has changed in her environment. She finally has been granted her independence to walk home and it’s not as fun as she probably imagined. She’s dealt with embarrassing moments. To me, she’s a very empathetic young person who doesn’t want people to experience what she has on her walk home.
One other “Tale” that could probably bring a tear to your eye was between friends who love video games. It explores the decision a person has to stand up or be silent. It also explores youth experiencing their hormones and trying to figure out their own desires.
These stories do exactly what Jason Reynolds has discovered he does well. Writing stories showing young people of color especially his male characters being vulnerable, being able to see themselves on the page and see the emotions they may feel but never think they are safe to display in public.
Finally, one part of the book that may seem subtle but is important to note are the adults in the stories. Who are the adults in the lives of the characters in each block? Are they cultivating supportive and healthy relationships with the youth? I think so and it’s important to our communities. They are helping students cope with anxiety or cross the street safely.
During a talk for Creative Mornings DC Reynolds discussed writing books centered around youth and why this work is so important, “I have an opportunity to put that on the page to show them crying, show them softer, show them uncertain, show them in moments where they are folded up with grief, where they are laughing bent over with happiness, and joy, show them scared, show them as they actually are.”