Jason Reynolds can empathize with kids who don’t like to read: He was 17 before he read a book cover to cover. It’s a fact he’s shared with thousands of kids in classrooms and auditoriums across the country, as a cautionary tale.

“It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s not cool,” he told a group of seventh-graders in Stafford, Va. “The truth is, my life was made infinitely more difficult because I didn’t read any books. But I didn’t read any books. That’s my story. That’s my truth.”

“Long Way Down,” by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)

This week Reynolds will publish his ninth book — his third this year: a novel in verse called “Long Way Down”about a young man coping with the shooting death of his brother. It was longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. At 33, Reynolds is a best-selling author with an array of awards, including multiple Coretta Scott King Book Award honors and an NAACP Image Award. He’s been a National Book Award finalist, shared stages with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Rep. John Lewis and appeared in the pages of People magazine.