Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
Genre: YA Contemporary, Coming of Age, Social Issues: Police Brutality, Racism
Publication: March 20th 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Series: No. Standalone.
Length: 304 pages
Format: Finished Hardcover Copy from Hachette Book Group US
Rating: ★★★★.5

Amazon || Book Depository

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.

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Huge thanks to my friends from Hachette Book Group US and Ms. Isa Jacinto for sending me a finished hardcover copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not, in any way, affect my overall opinion of the book and/or the story.

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This might sound like a huge cliché, but last year, when I read Angie Thomas’ debut, The Hate U Give, I felt like something about the way I lived my life shifted. It awoken my sense of activism, one way or another, and I’m so, so thankful to have encountered such a book. Since then, I’ve been on the market for books tackling the same issues like racism, and police brutality, and I was so excited to have heard and read Jay Coles equally explosive debut about a boy who has lost his brother to a racist cop who took his life just because he was black. Read on for a detailed review of Tyler Johnson Was Here.

This book might have been filled with so much violence and police brutality, but it was also written with so much passion and love, and I can’t help but feel so moved at the thought of having read a story like this one. Tyler didn’t deserve to be murdered. He didn’t deserve to die the way he did. And his Mama, and his brother, Marvin, didn’t deserve to lose a loved one like that. This book further made me realize how messed up our world actually is right now. It pained me so, so much to see a family, even though they’re entirely fictional, hurting because of a problem that’s so real, one that still happens right now. It also made me so enraged at how cruel lots of people could be, especially if they don’t like the way you look. And what’s worse is we lose lots of people because of all the hate. This book made me feel all kinds of emotions and I owe it to the author, to Tyler, and to Marvin, to take this fight and make it my own. For I’m a person of color myself. And somehow, this book made me feel seen and represented.

I also wanted to highlight the amazingly reletable friendship dynamic between Marvin, G-mo, and Ivy. From the moment I met them, down to the very last page of the book, I adored how close they were and how well-bonded they all seemed to be. I love how from the very first page, they always got each other’s backs and they always come to each other’s rescue when every time that it mattered most. They were also very compassionate and supportive, and their friendship meant the world to Marvin, and I absolutely enjoyed getting to know them. I would’ve loved this more if G-mo and Ivy were also given more background story, but overall, I very much enjoyed this big aspect of the story.

And finally, as for the technicals, I love how fast-paced Marvin and Tyler’s story was, overall, and I absolutely adored the author’s writing style. It came as no surprise to me that I was able to read this in 2 days, and I practically breezed through all the scenes. I love how the author was able to put so much grief and anguish into Marvin’s voice and that, for me, made him such an interesting narrator. I love reading about pained characters, not because I enjoy seeing them hurt, but because I find that they are usually so well-rounded. Their perspectives might be tainted by strong emotions such as infuriation and sadness, but they become so much more than just their story. Marvin’s voice is so unforgettable, I can assure you guys that he’ll definitely have a place in my heart now and forever.

“Jay Coles’ debut novel is infuriatingly moving. It’s filled with so much love, and I can’t imagine how rough and heavy yet ultimately satisfying writing this kind of book could be. Marvin Johnson, just like Starr Carter from The Hate U Give, is a well-developed MC, and I couldn’t imagine his story being told by anyone else. Tyler Johnson Was Here is a wonderfully heartbreaking book about the importance of family, the pains of losing a loved one, and the incessant need to fight for what is right and just. It might have been a very quick read for me, but it most definitely left a mark long after I turned the last page.”

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Have YOU read Tyler Johnson Was Here yet? If not, be sure to check out once it’s out on March 20th! And once you do, let me know what you think of it down below in the comments section!

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Arctic Books general graphics JMJM is a 21 year old blogger from Manila. He has a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Managment mainly because it was too late when he discovered that literature and publishing is his true calling. He enjoys reading contemporary and fantasy novels as much as he enjoys playing video games and baking pastries. You may find him on TwitterInstagram, and on Goodreads.

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