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Tyler Johnson Was Here


Tyler Johnson Was Here

TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE by Jay Coles is a novel that introduces readers to teenaged Marvin Johnson. When his twin brother, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to go to the party with him. The party doesn’t go as planned, though, because a shooting starts and soon after a police raid takes place where the party was.

The day after the shooting and police raid, Tyler is missing, only to be found dead a few days later. Things become even more complicated for Marvin and his mother when a video of Tyler being murdered by a police officer is leaked. Now, Marvin and his mother are mourning the loss of Tyler, but as the trial for the police officer that murdered Tyler nears, Marvin has to decide whether or not he is willing to go against what everyone else believes: that Tyler was just another thug who deserved to be murdered. TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE is Jay Coles’ debut novel and is an own voices story of a black boy facing police brutality and racism.

"TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE is an intense novel with beautiful, clear, crisp writing, and is something I would strongly recommend for fans of THE HATE U GIVE and ALL AMERICAN BOYS."

There were a lot of things I enjoyed about TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE, but one of the things I most enjoyed was the family dynamics in the novel. Marvin’s father is in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, and the two of them write letters to one another in attempt to keep their relationship with one another until his father can finally be released from jail. Marvin and Tyler’s relationship was something I enjoyed; it’s difficult to create realistic sibling relationships, but Jay Coles did an excellent job creating their relationship. I found their mother to also be an amazing character. So much of this story has to do with their family sticking together and grieving after Tyler’s death, and the execution of this was gut-wrenching.

I also enjoyed seeing more about the themes of police brutality and racism that were explored in the novel. Time and time again, we see Marvin and the people around him face racism --- from kids at school and by police officers. Police officers stop him and don’t trust him because he’s black, and the scenes of police brutality in the novel are graphic, detailed and intense. Marvin’s narration adds to the story; we can see his fear through the way he talks, and how he reacts to the police raid after the party. After Tyler’s death, Marvin becomes a more developed character, one that starts using his voice to protest and help the community around him, which was something I loved.

However, the novel still has a few issues that I would like to point out. Something I wasn’t a big fan of was the romance in the novel. Personally, I am not a fan of romance in my books, I find that they usually get in the way of the actual story progressing. Due to this, I found myself not enjoying the end of the book as much as I would have had there been no romance throughout the book. However, this is simply my personal preference, and if you enjoy or don’t care if there's romance in your books than I think you should go ahead and read TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE.

One other small issue I had was the pacing of the novel. TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE is a fast book to read, but the beginning was extremely slow, and it only starts to pick up the pace until halfway through the book. There were moments where it felt like nothing happened for pages on end and some of the bigger plot points of the book weren’t given enough time to develop. If the pacing was changed a bit, then this book would have been more impactful.

Despite the small flaws the novel has, I still enjoyed my experience reading it overall. Marvin’s friendships and relationships with his brother were lovely. TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE is an intense novel with beautiful, clear, crisp writing, and is something I would strongly recommend for fans of THE HATE U GIVE and ALL AMERICAN BOYS.

Reviewed by Marco M., Teen Board Member on March 27, 2018

Tyler Johnson Was Here
by Jay Coles

  • Publication Date: March 19, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316472182
  • ISBN-13: 9780316472180