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How It Went Down Hardcover – October 21, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—When 16-year-old Tariq, a black teen, is shot and killed by a white man, every witness has a slightly different perception of the chain of events leading up to the murder. Family, friends, gang members, neighbors, and a well-meaning but self-serving minster make up the broad cast of characters. The police bring their own personal biases to their investigation of the case. When all points of view are combined, the story of a young man emerges and with it, a narrative that plays out in communities across the country every day. Heartbreaking and unputdownable, this is an important book about perception and race. How It Went Down reads very much like Julius Lester's Day of Tears (Hyperion, 2005) in a modern setting and for an older audience. With a great hook and relatable characters, this will be popular for fans of realistic fiction. The unique storytelling style and thematic relevance will make it a potentially intriguing pick for classroom discussion.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH
“The layered voices tell a story both simple and complicated, heartbreaking and maddening.” ―The Chicago Tribune
“Kekla Magoon's books just keep getting better….It's an important, compelling story that everyone should read, especially high school students trying to make sense of our supposed post-racial world.” ―BookPage, A Teen Top Pick
“In How It Went Down, Kekla Magoon deftly renders us witnesses to an all-too-common news flash in uncommon, unflinching prose. Gripping to the end.” ―Rita Williams-Garcia Newbery Honor winner, National Book Award finalist, and Coretta Scott King Award winner
“A hard-hitting look at the ripple effects of one act of violence on an entire community. How It Went Down is engrossing and real--it's the right book at the right time.” ―Coe Booth, LA Times Book Prize winner
“Thoughtful and compassionate, beautifully composed, this book takes us inside what we think we know and shows us more.” ―Helen Frost, Printz Honor winner
“*Magoon masterfully captures the cycle of urban violence and the raw emotions of the young people who can't escape its impact.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“*How It Went Down is a snapshot in time, a fascinating study of people caught in the crosshairs of an "Event." . . . A particularly timely tale that can create dialogue and provide understanding about the decisions other people make, and the actions they take.” ―VOYA, starred review
“*This sobering yet satisfying novel leaves readers to ponder the complex questions it raises.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“The many voices provide poignant insights into the forces at play in the impoverished neighborhoods, where joining a gang is tough to resist, but the various perspectives also offer compelling and plausible insights into the way perceptions and preconceptions shape narratives and affect our actions.” ―BCCB
“A powerful novel that will resonate with fans of Myster's Monster and Woodson's Miracle's Boys.” ―The Horn Book
“Kekla Magoon's How It Went Down about a black teen who is shot by a white man, is . . . just the right title for young adults grappling with the headlines streaming in every day.” ―School Library Journal
“Heartbreaking and unputdownable.” ―School Library Journal
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Top customer reviews
Kekla Magoon skillfully orchestrates eighteen perspectives in telling the story of Tariq Johnson’s death and its aftermath. The shooting creates permanent ripple effects throughout Tariq’s community, among his family, close friends, and acquaintances. Reminiscent of Faulkner’s *As I Lay Dying*, *How It Went Down* eschews any pretense to narrative authority as it relies completely on the inevitable fallibility of first-person narration. Omniscience, Magoon seems to imply, is itself a fiction, and the only truth available to us is the one we are able to construct and live comfortably with.
An undeniably stark and powerful work of fiction, this novel addresses one of the sad realities of racism in contemporary American culture. It examines not only the senseless violence that claims the lives of innocent victims—it also takes an unflinching look at the impact of that violence on the ones left behind to mourn.
Tariq is not a perfect child, a saint gunned down by a horrible person with nefarious intentions. He has a mouth that sometimes gets him in trouble and has flirted with, but avoided gang affiliation. He's also a responsible young man devoted to his intellectually disabled little sister, on an errand for his mom. Tariq accidentally leaves behind at the store his change. When the shopkeeper runs after him, another white store owner assumes Tariq is gang banger fleeing from a robbery.
The multiple points of view can be confusing, but are easy to distinguish between those who want to see the worst of Tariq to those who do not. HOW IT WENT DOWN isn't black vs white. Some of the black characters assume he was part of a gang or are using his death for their own agenda.
As in life, an unjust shooting cannot have a happy ending, or even a real ending. Life continues. Justice is an illusion.
It amazes me how impulsive it was of Jack Franklin and his actions, and also the fact that he was easily released shortly after killing Tariq. You never get his perspective or narration, as well as Tariq's. I feel like this emphasizes the uncertainty of it all. The killer had his motives, but from an outsider's perspective: why?
Overall, the book was very powerful and impactful. It’s a great book for discussion, especially since it’s such a prevalent issue today. Also, it gives you different point-of-views that help make the case complex and very informational as to why the witnesses believe what they believe.