For What It's Worth

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

When Marvin Johnson's twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it's up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean. ~ Goodreads

Source: Review copy provided via the publisher at ALA

Review: Marvin’s twin brother, Tyler, goes missing after a party that is raided by the police. At first, Marvin is reluctant to say anything, hoping his brother is just laying low. After a video showing a cop - who has previously harassed Marvin and his friends & other black teens - killing a black teenage boy goes viral online, Marvin fears the worst and knows he has to come clean to his mother and the police.

Tyler Johnson Was Here has a ripped from the headlines quality to it. It immerses you into the #hashtag, viral video culture that consumes us during tragedies and racial tensions. By centering the story from Marvin's POV, instead of Tyler's, Coles keeps the story intensely personal and focused on the emotional fallout to family, friends and the black community, while still providing a fully formed characterization of Tyler.

Marvin’s grief, anger and guilt for not being able to save Tyler are a living thing. The friendships, a budding romance (Faith is fantastic! and not just the throw away girlfriend character) and wonderful interactions with his mom and imprisoned father elevate this story.

I will note that the pacing is a little uneven at times, but is still a strong coming of age story set against the backdrop of unbearable tragedy and the Black Lives Matter movement. Probing questions (from all pov's) and uneasy answers challenge the reader to acknowledge the humanity of those beyond the headlines.

I listened to this on audio with JaQwan J. Kelly doing the narration and I highly recommend that format. He imbued so much emotion into the story.

24 comments:

  1. Oh boy, I feel like this could be a tough read. It’s so hard to read about injustice and I get so ragey. I might see if my Overdrive or Hoopla has the audio version. Sounds like the narrator did a great job.

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    1. It was - especially with the narration. It was so spot on that you could feel how scared and broken Marvin was. I highly recommend the audio if you can get it.

      I actually had the book in print but stuck with the audio because it was so amazing.

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  2. I've seen this book a lot and it does sounds like it will be a tough, but also important read. It seems like the author did an amazing job in fleshing out the characters and discussing the issue.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

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    1. He really did and it is tough but really compelling. It's about a lot of different things - not just the shooting - even though that's a major part, of course.

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  3. The name sounds familiarly, hmm I wonder if I spotted it at the library

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    1. It's been out for a while so you probably remember the first round of publicity for it. I'm late to the party :-(

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  4. I'm really curious about this one. I can already feel my frustration building and I haven't even picked up a copy.

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    1. I think he did a great job covering a lot of issues while keeping the story really intimate.

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  5. I've seen this one around and the cover always catches my eye! This sounds like a really good book, but also seems like it might be a tough read. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. It was but it ends on a really hopeful note.

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  6. Oooh, this sounds like a tough one.

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    1. It was but also kind of hopeful and universal too .

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  7. Wow, I didn't even know what this book was about. This sounds tough but I really want to read this, it sounds intense and very emotional.

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  8. First of all - I LOVE YOUR FALL HEADER!!! So cute!

    Now, the book. Glad you enjoyed this, and always happy to hear the audio was good, because that's how I usually "read" my non-review books.

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    1. Thank you! I usually don't put it up until November (I do the Halloween one first) but I needed the cuteness lol

      I think you would like this one Sam and it's really short. The audiobook version is a MUST!

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  9. This sounds so, so powerful. And really emotional. Like I am upset just reading your review, which I know is the whole point, so well done to all involved. I'm definitely going to need to read this one, great review, so glad it was so impactful for you too!

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    1. Aw thanks Shannon. It's good on so many levels. Social justice, families, coming of age...

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  10. That sounds like it would be a good read.

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  11. Thanks for your review. I had seen a lot of Goodread reviews that said this book was too much like The Hate U Give, so I didn't pay it much attention, but it sounds great. I just checked and Hoopla doesn't have it, so I added it to my Kindle wishlist and if it goes on sale I'll nab it! 👍✨

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    1. I haven't read THUG - I saw the movie so I can't say. But I thought it was very good and more intimate than THUG (based on the movie anyway) in the way it deals with Marvin's grief, family, friends and future.
      My Hoopla didn't have it either - I ended up getting via libby.

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  12. I really want to read this one. It definitely sounds like a powerful story, and I think it's intriguing that it's not from Tyler's POV. I kind of like that!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  13. I read this one before I read THUG and while I really like it, I still feel like THUG was definitely the stronger story for me... but it was a good, solid read. Great review x

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