Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles Book Review

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.
Tyler Johnson Was Here is a stunning account of police brutality in modern America.

Tyler Johnson Was Here--did not come to be politically correct, or racially ambiguous. Tyler Johnson came to tell an ugly truth, and made no qualms about sharing its blackness, in it's raw and true form.

Tyler Johnson Was Here is an experience I found both realistic and painful. It wasn't very verbose--or even eloquent for that matter. But, it was well-written and specific in it's story telling.

Tyler Johnson was here is about a set of twins, Tyler and Marvin. Marvin and Tyler go to a party--a shooting ensues, and Tyler goes missing. Only to later find out, Tyler was killed by a cop on his way home.

An accurate depiction, of the current race-related police brutality issue--that has plagued the African American community for some time.

What works for this novel, is not that it has some predestined plot, with very specifically placed characters--what works is that it's real.

In that regard, the story works for telling an otherwise unheard of story in a real way. Teenagers, and adults alike will feel the pangs of Marvin's grief in ways that will shatter and change you. As authors continue to approach this subject both cautiously, and incautiously, readers will be changed.

Readers will get to know each character, in an intimate way, allowing for a deeper, more intimate connection with the author, the characters and themselves. The book is genius for the fact that it will tug the heart strings--but most importantly, it will open your eyes.

As I'm finally sitting down to right this review, another unarmed black man was killed--and it's a story I feel completely confident and saddened to say won't change, until the world does. Until the world, truly understands that black lives matter--not specifically because we/they are black but in spite of it.

So many reviews talk about how much better THUG was in comparison to this book, because it was more fleshed out--and had better writing.

Please allow this novel to stand on it's own two feet--because it's strong enough do so--despite it's flaws. 

THUG was good for what it was good for, but Tyler Johnson Was Here, is not meant to simply be a good novel--that people can have cups of tea, and quietly argumentative discussions of and over.

This book is the gritty version of that novel's story , the version I think people need to hear. The truth in all it's ugliness. The truth hurts but it must be told.

Let me also briefly touch on the "romance," aspect of this novel.

I am literally taking the heaviest of sighs, because I read a review that called the romance insta-lovey, and they totally missed the mark here.

Yes, there is romance that blossoms, but the initial companionship is a shared relationship based on grief. There was an understanding among the characters--loss and the feeling of being misunderstood. It was more about Marvin finding someone he could rely on for comfort, that wasn't in his immediate circle. It wasn't about love, and falling in love immediately.

Again, Tyler Johnson Was Here is a needed story. It's realistic, it's raw and unfiltered. It's not THUG.

No matter which you prefer, focus on what's important here--and that is the black lives matter movement, and the validity, and importance of black lives in general.

Read it, because it's important, because you want to--don't look to it for comparisons--and that's all.


  1. Glad you enjoyed this one so much!

  2. Wow, this sounds intense. I’m on a waitlist for it, but the list is so long that I’ll probably end up buying the book. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. THis sounds like it will be a tough book to read. I mean, how can you read it and not be overwhelmed with grief and anger and frustration? It’s unfortunate that the comparisons to THUG are swirling. It detracts from the book and its own unique message and voice.

  4. Wow this sounds intense and like it is an important read. I just started seeing this one around and need to add it now. Also it stinks with the comparisons to THUG. They can both be good in their own right without pitting them against each other in some way.

    1. I really hate it. I do hope you get to read this one--it really is a good read!

  5. Beautiful review, Jazmen! I haven't read this one yet, but it's definitely on my wishlist. <3 I love character- and emotion-driven novels. I really like how you mentioned that this shouldn't be compared to THUG (which I also haven't read yet), since it's its own book. So glad you loved this, dear! I adored your review. New Bloglovin' follower. ^_^

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

    1. Thanks so much, Aimee! And thanks for becoming a follower--I'll be checking you out!

  6. Wow, I didn't expect this book to paint such an ugly picture! Now I'm regretting getting the audiobook because it'll make me even more emotional compared to reading it.

    This is a great review Jazmeen, I hope this one is on the NYT list this week!

    1. I think it will be rough to listen to through audio--but maybe it will make the experience more powerful. Thanks for the comment! I'd love to see this on the NYT list.

  7. I plan to pick this one up really soon. It's good to know going in that this one's a little grittier than other similar books. Sometimes just knowing something like that going in can help to set my expectations. Thanks for your review!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  8. This is another one on my to-buy list. I think I'll be picking it up next weekend. Yes, I love THUG, but I'm a reader who gives props where they're due. I love realness. And, I think our youth better connects to real, rather than eloquence. I'm pretty sure no one will loose brain cells by reading this book.