Kia Chenelle
Isabella Biedenharn
January 18, 2017 AT 11:50 AM EST

The next project for National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds is taking him back to his poetry roots. His forthcoming YA novel, Long Way Down, is told entirely in verse and unfolds over just 60 tense seconds in an elevator. Of this unconventional form, Reynolds tells EW: “Why verse? Well, first and foremost, I love poetry. It was my first discipline. But more importantly, there’s something fascinating to me about making a world with only a handful of words. Furthermore, verse can be used to emphasize tension and immediacy, and this is definitely a book fraught with both.”

Here’s the book’s official description:

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Long Way Down won’t hit shelves until Oct. 17 — but luckily, EW has an exclusive cover reveal and sneak peek inside to tide you over until the book’s release.

Excerpt from Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

DON’T NOBODY

believe nothing
these days

which is why I haven’t
told nobody the story
I’m about to tell you.

And truth is
you probably ain’t
gon’ believe it either
gon’ think I’m lying
or I’m losing it,
but I’m telling you,

this story is true.

It happened to me.
Really.

It did.

It so did.

 

MY NAME IS

Will.
William.
William Holloman.

But to my friends
and people
who know me
know me,

just Will.

So call me Will,
because after I tell you
what I’m about to tell you

you’ll either
want to be my friend
or not
want to be my friend
at all.

Either way,
you’ll know me
know me.

 

I’M ONLY WILLIAM

to my mother
and my brother, Shawn,
whenever he was trying
to be funny.

Now
I’m wishing I would’ve
laughed more
at his stupid jokes

because the day
before yesterday,
Shawn was shot

 

 

and killed.

 

I DON’T KNOW YOU

don’t know
your last name
if you got
brothers
or sisters
or mothers
or fathers
or cousins
that be like
brothers
and sisters
or uncles
or aunties
that be like
mothers
or fathers

but if the blood
inside you is on the inside
of someone else

you never want to
see it on the outside of
them

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