21 October 2014

Review: How It Went Down

How It Went Down
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

At minimum, I truly do believe that kids need and deserve books that reflect the world they live in, even if I see literature more as an opportunity to escape than anything else. How It Went Down is a book, given the situation in Ferguson and the Trayvon Martin case from last year, that will have a lot of relevance to many readers. Unfortunately, the book lacks the nuance that such a topic requires and ends up being a questionable read in the end.

The story is told from multiple points of view in the time during and following the shooting of a black teenager that may or may not have been armed and may or may not have been associated with a gang. His shooter was white, the store he might have robbed or might not have. The tale tries to take all the points of view into consideration as the story gains national attention and draws in other outsiders.

I say this is questionable because of the nuance, as the story doesn't really reflect that. The point is that we don't really know and never will, but the tales its pulling from are not so complex. The ideas within the book are adult and complicated, and the story unfortunately simplifies matters too much to be a real commentary on the topic it's very obviously discussing. In a place where ideas can be explored, the characters instead do not come across as complicated, but instead all simply flawed and not so nuanced. The Reverend character, in particular, is a disgusting and disturbing caricature that offers little to no reason to accept him as realistic or to understand why his portrayal even matters.

I'm overly critical because I think this is an important topic that probably doesn't get fair treatment in schools or in the public dialogue, and this book misses so many opportunities to execute better. I wish it was something it isn't, and that's unfortunate. I can't recommend.

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