Jason Reynolds’ For Every One is poetry for dreams and their dreamers, or maybe for dreamers and their dreams: part (love) letter, part memoir, filled with the hope and the courage of the dreaming.
Reynolds is one of our great children’s and young adult writers, the current National Ambassador for Children’s Literature, a writer of everything from middle grade novels to young adult novels, from novels in verse to tales in prose and well beyond. (And he speaks to teens and younger folks: I know, since I’ve been able to serve them as librarian, and seen their excitement when a new Reynolds book comes out.)
For Every One was originally a spoken word piece, performed at the Kennedy Center and later for another titan of youth literature, Walter Dean Myers (the Walters are named for him!), and Reynolds’ use of spacing—and Mike Rosamilia’s creative use of white space and font size (he’s the book’s designer)—make it easy to imagine aloud, but it is powerful on the page, too.
I do not tend to hope, a trait I could argue has served me well during this hellspiral engulfing my country (and the world: I’m so sorry), but every once in a while I want to read something hopeful, that explodes off the page with determination and with resolute dreams, ready to come to life. For Every One does that and more, reaching out to its readers, enveloping them in the reminder that courage and determination are worth more, in the end, than the spark: that we should fight for our dreams, whether they be dreams of creation or of survival or of family.
Reynolds wrote For Every One for teens, but it has true crossover appeal: it will remind adults and teens and middle graders (and quite possibly elementary age folks too) that there is hope out there, somewhere: that with courage and determination and dreams and hard work their spark can be nurtured towards success.
For Every One is no motivational speech: Reynolds notes that those books are generally good only for the firelight from their burning pages. (I’m not a fan of motivational speakers, either, which is no secret, I think.) But it is motivating in a different way, one more organic and closer to the heart, that reminder that it is part dream and dreamer, but to bring dreams to flesh we must have courage and commitment and determination.
For Every One would be, I think, a wonderful gift to someone starting out, a high school senior, a college grad, a new-fledged grad student clutching at the memory of their dream, someone struggling with this hellscape we’re in now. It’s a reminder of hope, and of the joy of the journey, not just the destination—and that, surely, is a reminder we can all use.