Title: Tyler Johnson Was Here
Author: Jay Coles
Release Date: March 20, 2018
Publisher: Little Brown
Rating: ★★★★★ (4.7/5)
Wow, what can I even say about this book?
Hi readers! I hope you’re doing well, and welcome back to my blog! As you can probably guess, this is going to be a *spoiler free* review of TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE by Jay Coles. I received this book from Little Brown, in exchange for an honest review! And what can I say beside. . .wow. Just wow.
If you haven’t heard of this book, it follows a black American teen, Marvin Johnson, who is smart, ambitious, and caring, especially toward his twin brother, Tyler. Following a police raid, Tyler goes missing and Marvin is worried sick. But he soon finds out what happened to his brother from a viral video online—Tyler had been shot by a cop.
My overall thought is a crisp and concise: ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh myyyyyyyyyyyy godddddddd. This book was AMAZING. It moved me, I felt it for days, and I will read any book that Jay Coles writes after TJWH. (Fun fact: this is his major debut novel—and he’s only in his early twenties! The literary talent here is astounding.)
I loved Marvin. He is the archetypal sweet, soft boy of color that I expect—no, demand—to see more of in young adult. There is also an entire cast of color, which is something I also expect to see more of in YA 🙂 Marvin’s friends G-Mo and Ivy provided that much needed comic relief, and I liked the strong bond between Marvin and his mom.
Something I especially adore about TJWH was the subject of teen empowerment. After his brother’s tragic death, Marvin is hopeless, but he learns that he can make a difference, make a change, for his brother. It reflects how current social movements are being amplified by the internet. And it made the book so much more empowering.
I remember reading this book and thinking that the event in which Tyler was shot would be right off the bat at the beginning, but I was surprised how the story was dragged out a little bit longer than I expected. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, but considering the extra time, I was hoping we’d get to know Tyler better.
Which leads me to. . .
My ONLY issue with TJWH was that us, as the reader, were not able to really get to know Tyler. In the beginning, Tyler is only in a few scenes, and then he goes missing, and he’s gone forever. We are constantly told that Tyler Johnson was not a bad kid, and I agree! But I need to see that Tyler Johnson deserves to be remembered. Basically, see, not tell is key.
I could feel the devastation that Marvin felt for his brother, but I thought that as the reader, I couldn’t feel that same level of devotion to Tyler. (It’s understood, but I just wished that we got to see Tyler the same way that Marvin did before he was gone.)
Maybe that makes sense?
I think anyone and everyone should read this book. However, in particular, I would definitely recommend Tyler Johnson Was Here if you liked Dear Martin or The Hate U Give ❤ (both of which I adored!) As more stories come, I will be excited to read those profound books similar to Dear Martin, THUG, and TJWH.
But I think the most important part of TJWH is the message. Of course, I have to leave a disclaimer that I am a white blogger, so YA is fortunate to have authors such as Jay Coles bring a fresh, authentic perspective that deals with these prevalent issues in our society. I believe that fiction is much more than just a story, and that the story of TJWH will be remembered, just like Tyler.
I will conclude this review with one (of many) favorite quotes from Tyler Johnson Was Here:
“Our lives matter! Oscar Grant mattered! Freddie Gray mattered! Michael Brow mattered! Jordan Davis mattered! Eric Garner mattered! Tarika Wilson mattered! Dontre Hamilton! Sandra Bland mattered! Trayvon Martin mattered! Tanisha Anderson mattered! Yvette Smith mattered! Tamir Rice mattered! Philando Castile mattered! Jordan Edwards mattered! Don’t forget—Emmett Till mattered!”
The last one sticks and makes me feel nauseous: “Tyler Johnson mattered!”
Thanks for reading! Have you read Tyler Johnson Was Here? Let me know!