How It Went Down

HowItWentDown5“A racially charged shooting reveals the complicated relationships that surround a popular teen and the neighborhood that nurtured and challenged him…..As each character reflects on Tariq, a complex young man is revealed, one who used his considerable charm to walk the tightrope of life in his neighborhood. Magoon skillfully tells the story in multiple, sometimes conflicting, voices.

“This sobering yet satisfying novel leaves readers to ponder the complex questions it raises.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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Coming October 21, 2014 from Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. (Now available for pre-order.)



About the Book

In Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down, when sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. By the day, new twists and turns further obscure the truth.

Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and of the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.



“Heartbreaking and unputdownable, this is an important book about perception and race.”

School Library Journal


“In How It Went Down, Kekla Magoon deftly renders us witnesses to an all too common news flash in uncommon, unflinching prose. Gripping to the end.

–Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor-winning Author of One Crazy Summer


“Thoughtful and compassionate, beautifully composed, this book takes us inside what we think we know and shows us more.”

–Helen Frost, Printz Honor-winning author of Keesha’s House


A seriously impressive book – cleverly staged, with superb and unique voices throughout, and a plot from today’s headlines.”

–The BookJam Blog (Read full review here.)


Junior Library Guild Selection


FAQ About How It Went Down

Is this novel based on a true story?

No. All of the characters and incidents that appear in How It Went Down are fictional.

However, the fictional shooting of Tariq Johnson that occurs in my novel is similar in some ways to real incidents of violence that have occurred around the country in recent years. If you follow the real-world news, you may very well recognize some of the issues and discussions that come up between the characters in my novel. Part of why I wrote the novel was to  explore these issues in the context of fiction, in hopes that it might add a new perspective to the important conversations about such incidents.


Why did you write the book from multiple viewpoints?

Part of what is intriguing and challenging about the news coverage that follows a controversial shooting is the uncertainty. Everyone–including members of the media–takes the limited facts that are available and creates a narrative about the incident that makes sense to him or her. The controversy deepens when those narratives conflict–when people have different opinions about what really happened. It is hard to know what really did happen in many of these cases, and it is always impossible to know exactly what was going on in a person’s head when he or she made the choice to pick up a gun and what led him or her to ultimately pull the trigger. It was intriguing to me to explore how not just one person but a whole community might respond to a controversial shooting that occurred in their own backyard. I thought it would be harder to explore the nuances of this type of controversy if I wrote from only one viewpoint.