Title: Tyler Johnson Was Here
Author: Jay Coles
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
I found this book through a recommendation list, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now. As soon as I was finished with The Price Guide to the Occult, I dived into Tyler Johnson Was Here and devoured it in a day and a half. I just finished it yesterday and honestly, I’m completely stunned. It was a gorgeous, heartfelt and thoroughly thought-provoking debut, and I know that I will never forget it. Tender, ripped from the headlines, and timely, Tyler Johnson Was Here should be required reading for all, no matter their race, age, or gender. Written as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and inspired by true events from the author’s life, this coming of age story blew me away, and holds the spot for one of my favorite books of the year. Absolutely marvelous in the best kind of way. This book pulls no punches, kicking you in the teeth and breaking your heart and then stitching it back together.
Marvin and Tyler Johnson are twins and have been attached at the hip since birth. But since high school, they’ve been drifting apart. Tyler has been hanging out with a rougher crowd at school, and Marvin is worried that he’s going to lose his brother and closest friend. When the boys head out to a party to blow off some steam with their friends, tragedy soon follows in a blur of violence. When Tyler goes missing, Marvin is determined to find him, fearing the worst. The police claim that his brother was killed in a gang-related incident, but Marvin’s suspicions that something is deeply wrong is confirmed when a video surfaces of Tyler, getting fatally shot by a white police officer. Determined that his brother not die in vain, Marvin is forced to summon the courage to speak out, even if it costs him everything.
This book. This book was incredible. First of all, it was diverse. (Yay for diverse books guys!) There were times when it was really hard to get through, and it made me really emotional, but I’m so happy that I was able to read it before it went back to the library. This book was something that I definitely needed; police brutality against black people, especially young black people, is such an issue right now, and I’m so happy that there have been books highlighting it. The pacing was breakneck, the writing tender and evocative; I was laughing, screaming, cheering, and crying throughout the narrative. This book was straight up a literary punch to the gut, and a total eye-opener. I loved the characters, especially gentle, sweet Marvin, his headstrong brother, Tyler, Faith, and Tyler’s best friends, G-Mo and Ivy. This book gutted me, and I loved every moment of it. I loved the way that it talked about racism and the class divide so clearly; it made me so happy. And that ending! It made me cry all the tears, and it was so bittersweet and beautiful. Easily one of the best and most timely novels of the year, and I can’t wait to see what Jay Coles has in store next! The bottom line: A timely, ripped-from-the-headlines novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the horrifying police brutality against black people in America, I’ll never forget Tyler Johnson Was Here! Absolutely stunning! Next on deck: The Outcast by Taran Matharu!