How It Went Down – Kekla Magoon

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon is one of the two YA-books I read this year, the other being a nostalgic reread (Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares), and I SO wouldn’t have picked this up without #bustlereads.

I feel like this next sentence is a theme linking all the #bustlereads-posts together, but, the happier I was when I actually enjoyed it.
How It Went Down is a novel centering around the death of sixteen-year-old Tariq, who is shot on an open street in the very first pages.
Tariq was black, his shooter is a white man with no apparent reason for the shots besides feeling threatened by a gun he thought he saw Tariq hold. 2016, amirite? The novel was actually published in 2014 already, but arguably has reached the peak of its relevance (so far, I should say) right now.

It’s quite brilliantly constructed. The story is told from a lot of different view points, people in different ways connected to Tariq (or his shooter) talking about what they witnessed during the shooting scene, but also how they react to Tariq’s death and reactions to Tariq’s death, I suppose.
It’s extremely interesting because so many different motives make people get involved in the narrative, and, as obviously is the point of all the different perspectives on Tariq’s death and “legacy”, you really start to understand the ambiguity of the situation.
Also, while the writing wasn’t particularly beautiful or special, the voices felt very realistic (and different!) which I think with this book’s aim is actually much more important.

I don’t think it’s a novel written to make you understand race in the 21st century or even just comparable shootings that happen in real life. It just reminds you of the complexity of all human relations and gives you a slightly different outlook on news reports.
It’s a book about circumstances and motivation, obvious or hidden, that can probably be taken a lot of different ways. I genuinely believe that a white ignorant idiot could come out of reading this feeling reassured in his opinion of those damn gang kids, but that’s not a problem of this book, it’s a problem in the reader.

I think Kekla Magoon showing everyone as flawed and not completely angelic, not glorifying either party ever, did the only possible thing when writing this book, and I genuinely believe this is a great read for people who enjoy good novels that don’t shy away from being in the moment, political and always equivocal.


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