When the school bell rings and students race for the doors, where do they go? What do they do? In each of the 10 short stories that compose Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, the reader follows a different student to see what they get up to on their way home.
In “The Low Cuts Strike Again,” Bit, Francy, John John and Trista are the kids whom teachers talk about in the teachers’ lounge—“at-risk” kids who swipe loose change wherever they might find it. The Low Cuts, as the four call themselves, have something in common: their almost-bald heads, a haircut chosen in solidarity with each other and with their parents, all cancer survivors. And it’s what they do with all that loose change that shows another side of the label of “at-risk.”
In the lead story, “Water, Booger, Bears,” Jasmine and TJ challenge those who think “boys and girls can’t just be friends.” Other stories portray protagonists dealing with bullying, falling in love and struggling with anxiety.
Jason Reynolds affords loving attention to each of the characters in his large cast. Despite simple-seeming prose, his language sparkles. He writes of the Low Cuts, “Even though they were tight on time, they were loose on talk” and, “Bit put a pothole in the middle of memory lane.” Along with his previous novels, written in prose, verse and dual voices, these short stories demonstrate Reynolds’ range of superb storytelling.