69 pages 2 hours read

Jason Reynolds

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2019

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Summary and Study Guide


A National Book Award finalist, Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks (2019) by Jason Reynolds chronicles 10 stories of adolescents attending Latimer Middle School. The stories take place within 10 blocks of the school as each character journeys homeward at the end of the school day. Look Both Ways follows the lauded Ghost and Long Way Down, both of which explore the experiences of Black young adults in America. In Look Both Ways, Reynolds employs his familiar use of shifting perspectives to offer a nuanced look into life as a young adult. This study guide references the 2019 Atheneum Books for Young Readers Simon & Schuster Edition.

Plot Summary

The first story featured in Look Both Ways follows a day in the life of the long friendship between Jasmine Jordan and Terrence (TJ) Jumper. Jasmine has just returned to school two days prior following complications with sickle cell anemia. TJ, a former foster child, attempts to cheer Jasmine up with facts about boogers and a ridiculous claim that humans are boogers. The two friends chat and discuss what it means to be human as they walk the familiar route home.

In the second story, a group known as the Low Cuts terrorizes the halls of Latimer Middle School under the leadership of the short Britton (Bit) Burns. John John Watson, Francy Baskin, and Trista Smith follow Bit along on their premediated adventure to hustle. United by their shared experiences as children of cancer patients, the four friends successfully accomplish their goal of procuring ice cream not for themselves but for Bit’s sick mother who has just completed her first day of her second round of chemotherapy.

Chapter 3 follows the lives of skateboarder Pia Foster and private school student Stevie Munson. As Pia enjoys her freedom on her skateboard and grapples with her grief over the loss of her older sister Santi, Stevie struggles under the grasp of the relentless bully Marcus Bradford. The two characters collide in an altercation between Pia and Marcus, which, ultimately, results in the destruction of Pia’s skateboard. In the aftermath, Pia finds solace in new friendship while Stevie finally opens up to his mother about his struggles.

In Chapter 4, Fatima Moss records her every movement from school to home in an attempt to prepare for the unexpected. She befriends an unpredictable, exuberant woman named Benni Austin whose kindness and carefree spirit encourages Fatima to change her ways and think about what contribution she wants to make to the world.

Chapter 5 focuses on Bryson Wills as he recovers from an attack by four boys after he defends his friend Ty Carson against gossip over a kiss between Ty and another boy. As Bryson plays video games to escape from the memories of what happened, Ty rushes to Bryson’s home after school with roses to thank Bryson for defending him. He reaches Bryson’s house and is invited inside.

Chapter 6 delves into the deep friendship between Simeon Cross and Kenzi Thompson as they cause a ruckus in the halls of Latimer Middle School. Simeon and Kenzi escape to their isolated neighborhood that suffers from a bad reputation. The two friends share snacks and support each other. Simeon reveals that Kenzi’s brother is incarcerated after taking the fall for Simeon’s brother Chucky.

Traumatized by a dog bite he received at age seven, Satchmo Jenkins attempts to implement a master plan to avoid his neighbor’s new dog on his way home in Chapter 7. He obsesses over his master plan until he is called over by his neighbor Mr. Jerry who asks him to meet his new dog. The dog appears friendly and licks Mr. Jerry’s face.

In Chapter 8, Comedian Cynthia “Say So” Sowers finishes her daily show in the last five minutes of math class. She takes a shortcut home to make it to her next show at her local playground. She stops by a cemetery and retrieves a cigarette butt for her grandfather’s collection. After no one attends Cynthia’s show, she goes up to her apartment and talks to her grandfather whose dementia grows stronger each day. Cynthia pretends that her grandfather writes her jokes. They end the day by reminiscing and laughing.  

Chapter 9 follow Gregory Pitts and his friends Joey Santiago, Remar Vaughn, and Candace Green as they attempt to improve Gregory’s hygiene to help him impress Sandra White. Their attempts backfire, and Gregory’s lips burn after using VapoRub on his lips. He confesses his feelings for Sandra anyway and awaits her response.

In the final chapter, Canton Post watches his mother work as the school’s crossing guard as he works on his homework. After completing his homework, which asks him to observe the people and places around him, Canton realizes that he no longer needs the dog made with a broom head gifted to him a year earlier after he suffered a panic attack in the aftermath of his mother’s accident. He throws the broom dog in the air and watches it come apart on his way home with his mother. His mother remarks on how it looks like a school bus falling from the sky. 

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