Jason Reynolds: ‘What’s unusual about my story is that I became a writer’

The American author on his gut response to a friend’s death, how to get young people reading, and the value of crochet

Jason Reynolds, a 34-year-old from Washington DC, didn’t grow up expecting to be a writer: indeed, he was 17 before he read a book from start to finish. But it might be his atypical background that allows him to connect so powerfully with teenage readers. He has published a dozen novels – mostly for young adults – in the US, has been a National Book award finalist and is a fixture on the New York Times bestseller list. He was also recently named on the Guardian’s Frederick Douglass 200 list, which honours the 200 living individuals who best embody the work and spirit of the American abolitionist and politician. Now one of Reynolds’s books, Long Way Down, is being released in the UK. Told in verse, ...