Jason Reynolds’ Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks is, in its simplest form, a story about a walk home from school. But it is also a story about grief, growing up, facing your fears, chronic illness, divorce, bullying, and a school bus falling from the sky.
The walk home is ten blocks, and each block is told from the perspective of a different kid on their walk home. Students at Latimer have a lot on their plate, with pressure at school and at home to be a certain way. The only time they can truly be themselves is on their walk home, and part of this is trying to figure out their relationship to their community.
Although the premise sounds like it might set you up for quite a boring book, Look Both Ways is incredible. Every single child featured is completely different, yet they all are connected in one way or another. Each story revolves around connection and how it affects the children. Sometimes it is the connection between a child and their parents, sometimes it is a connection between peers who have endured similar hardships, sometimes it is good, and sometimes it is painful, but it is an integral part of each story, because the life of a middle schooler is all about connection.
Middle school is a time of change, a machine whose input is drastically different from its output. It is one of the places that is guaranteed to produce a person that is wiser than they were when they first walked through those double doors. And this is because middle school students thrive on attachments. It is what influences their every action. All the things they do, all the things they say, it is all because of connection. Reynolds explores this point of view of adolescence by making readers of Look Both Ways realize why certain kids need to be funny, or be a bully, or steal, and why teens are the way that they are.
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds. Atheneum Books, 2020. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!