Becky here. I recently read How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon; fast-paced, topical, with great characterization and an undercurrent of suspense, How it Went Down was a quick read.
I read it in a night and returned it to the library the next day. But not to be dismissed, this book has lingered in my mind, and the more I think about it, the more I like and appreciate it. How it Went Down opens with a street shooting in a fictional urban ghetto rife with gang violence.
But this particular shooting isn't between rival gangs; sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson is shot twice and left dead by a middle-aged white man who appears and disappears quickly. Told in short chapters in the voices of over a dozen witnesses, neighbors, friends, family, and interlopers, How it Went Down paints a vivid picture not just of the questions relating to what happened in this particular situation but in the community - and its future - as a whole.
When I first started the book I was skeptical about the sheer number of character voices; how was I going to be able to tell them apart? And this, I think, is the brilliance of this novel and how it takes a plot "ripped from the headlines" and makes it nuanced to present a social commentary that does what the best social commentary does: asks more questions than it attempts to supply answers.
Each character's voice and situation is unique and fully drawn, creating a multidimensional portrayal of a community in upheaval as well as challenging the reader to see each person not just as a role you think you know - the grieving mother, the gang leader, the shop owner, the uncomprehending friend - but as individuals with unique lives that matter.