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Tyler Johnson Was Here

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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.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published March 20, 2018

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About the author

Jay Coles

17 books470 followers
Jay Coles is a MG and YA author. He lives in Muncie, Indiana with aspirations to live in Los Angeles. Also, Jay is a composer, musician, and missionary where he gets to mentor college students. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram (@mrjaycoles)!

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5 stars
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,158 reviews
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
June 5, 2018
“People don’t fucking know that black folks were never included in all. All-American means white. All-inclusive means white. All lives means white lives. It’s bullshit. White dolls always make it about them, and I’m pissed that they’re trying to mask their hatred with these tags.”

For once, a book is just as amazing as the cover. A story about police brutality, focused around a boy whose brother is shot by a police officer. And, as I think most of you may have guessed, the shooting occurred unprovoked. The fact that this is reality for so many black teens in America is absolutely horrifying.

I feel as if it's hard to review good issue books. Because Tyler Johnson Was Here is undoubtedly important, but with fantastic books about the same topic like Dear Martin and The Hate U Give, I know that many people will skip it. But here's the thing: you shouldn't. With excellent characters and a fantastic emotional heart, this book deserves so much more than being written off as generic or not worth the read.

The main strength of Tyler Johnson Was Here is how personal it feels. With a well-written sense of grief and of empowerment shadowing the book, Coles' writing feels authentic and from-the-heart. Despite not much specific development, each character feels just as true to heart. And to be quite honest, the casual diversity is really special. If someone told sixth-grade-me that this many books I picked up would have casually sapphic side characters and all-black casts, I would definitely not have believed them. I am so sorry to keep reiterating this, but look. how. far. we've. come.

Basically only not a five because it’s very slice-of-lifey and that’s just never going to be my thing. But if brief slice-of-life type books are your thing, and even if they're not? This book is well-worth the read.

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April 9, 2018

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Wow, I really wasn't a fan of this one at all and that bums me out, because I was fully expecting to love TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE. Since my feelings about this are so complicated and the subject matter is so delicate, I'm going to list out my thoughts in bullet points. (Bullet points are so much easier!)

Some thoughts:

1. I loved what this book was trying to do, and even if it didn't quite succeed, the publication of books like THE HATE U GIVE and TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE not only gives the Black Lives Matter movement more exposure, it puts books featuring kids of color into the hands of actual kids of color with stories that they can relate to (whether in a good or bad way). That's nothing to sneeze at, and I can appreciate the value of books like TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE even if I don't enjoy them.

2. Comparisons to THE HATE U GIVE are going to be inevitable. They are very similar stories: two high school kids of color who feel a lot of pressure to "act white" in order to be successful, who live in a low-income/racially diverse area with lots of criminal/gang activity, whose lives are torn apart by police brutality spurred on by racial discrimination that ends up starting a local movement. I don't think the similarity is a bad thing, because like I said before, Black Lives Matter is a movement representing real victims of police brutality, and those narratives are important. But it's my opinion that THE HATE U GIVE is a much better book, and handles the subject matter better.

3. The characters in here feel very undeveloped. I didn't get much of a sense of who Tyler was, whereas the main character in THUG all but leaped from the pages. I would have liked to have gotten a better sense of his character, because that might have made me like him more. He just felt very bland and passive to me, and I couldn't figure out if that was meant to be intentional or not. His choices, particularly the one at the end involving his future, didn't make sense and seemed to be fueled for the sake of keeping the story moving. All of his friends are very one-note, and his sort-of love interest, when she appears, kind of just feels like the generic manic pixie dreamgirl type.

4. All the white people in this book are assholes. This kind of ties into the third bullet point - all the bad people in this book, like the cops and the mean principal and the well-meaning, but white guilt apologist "I-have-a-diversity-checklist-in-my-back-pocket-and-that-checklist-says-I-must-be-nice-to-you-for-diversity-related-reasons" MIT representative are just hilarious stereotypes of white people being shitty in various shitty ways. That cop, man. What the actual fresh hell was he doing. What a psychopath. I couldn't help but compare the cop scenes in here with the cop scene in THUG, where the cop did what he did because his racism surfaced during a snap decision he made because he was afraid. Here, it was just like the cop decided he was going to be all, "Yaaaaay! Power abuse is fun!"

Edit: Removed Principal Dodson from the "white people are assholes" section because apparently he was black and I missed this is my skim-a-thon. My bad.

I'm glad I was approved for an advance reader copy of this book and I'm sorry I didn't like this more. I see that at least some of my friends on Goodreads really enjoyed this book, so maybe you will, too.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

1.5 to 2 stars
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
858 reviews3,756 followers
May 30, 2018
Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Powerful.

Content warnings: This book deals with topics like police brutality and racism. There is some drug dealing. There are a couple of instances where a parent threatens physical punishment toward their child. Grief is a major theme. If it is harmful to you, you may want to know that the N- word is used, but it is written by a black author and said by a black character and not as an aggression.

This is compared to The Hate U Give and yes, they do deal with similar topics. I do think you'd like them both equally, and seriously don't make THUG the only BLM book you read. This one is just as important and is just as GOOD (writing, characters, story).

I loved the exploration of grief in this book. Although I've never lost someone in this way, the way the character describes his grief is so real and made me cry. There were very accurate statements about how memories and your identity are impacted after losing someone.

The friendships were another thing I adored. Marvin's friends were loyal. When Marvin withdrew into himself, they gave him the space he needed, never got mad or let it come between them, and came running when he needed them. There was no friend drama here!

Representation: Main character and his family are African American (ownvoices). Side character Ivy is biracial and likes girls. Side character G-mo (Guillermo), is Latinx.

Audiobook review: Narrator JaQwan J. Kelly brought the proper amount of emotion to his reading and made the story that much more powerful. 5 star narration.
Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books551 followers
April 27, 2018
This is a difficult review to write, and I am slightly conflicted. I give Tyler Johnson Was Here four stars, because this book tells an important and sadly all too relevant story. Again and again, we hear the disturbing reports of police brutality, of people being murdered for nothing more than their skin color, or living in a dangerous neighborhood they lack the means to escape. It is shocking and sad and the fact that the plot is based somewhat on the author's real experiences, makes it all the more so. I whole-heatedly wish him success in telling his story and spreading his message of awareness. Something has to change, and though I do not know where to begin, talking about it is hopefully a start.

I grew up in a small town in Germany and was told to trust the police. In German, there is a saying "Die Polizei - dein Freund und Helfer" (the police - your friend and helper) and I lived by this. I was told, if I got lost, or something bad happened, I could turn to the police and they would help me. The notion that I should fear them was utterly foreign to me. The talk Tyler and Marvin's mother has with her boys in this book, about keeping their heads down, about watching out for the police, is one my parents never had to have with my sisters or with me, and I realize how privileged we are for this. Though by now, of course, I know that many people in the US (where I currently live and have for many years), grew up without this thought of the police as a societal safety net. There are many policemen and women, one cannot forget, who are truly good and helpful people, who respect their duty to the community, no matter the color of anyone's skin, or their background. But one cannot ignore that there are also many, whose prejudice has provoked them to cause irreparable damage and rarely face the consequences. To bring attention to this and to encourage a conversation to provoke change and awareness, I think books like Tyler Johnson Was Here are valuable and important, and I hope they are being read and discussed in classrooms.
There is something visceral, almost intrusive about the way the author confronts the reader with the grief of this broken family, that will force readers of all ages to think. Jay Coles strips away barriers, forcing you to see, feel, hear the pain of loss and to comprehend how utterly senseless violence is. Though the writing was, perhaps, not incredibly polished, and I saw some flaws and oversimplifications in his approach, I can see this author having a promising career ahead of him.

Now, I know I said I was conflicted about writing this review, and I want to explain. I am happy to rate this book four stars, because it was thought-provoking and told a truly important story. My little niggle is that I could tell this was a debut, by which I mean, I felt the language was a bit immature, some of the ideas not as developed as they could have been, and the writing not its strongest point. I also found it was a little simplistic to make the majority of white people out to be racists and inherently bad (not just the police, but also the MIT rep, who makes it clear Tyler could only get into the school to fill a diversity quota). There is also a scene in which one of Marvin's friends says he hates white people and when his other friend says that he is being racist, too, Marvin reasons that he is only prejudiced, not racist, which I found to be a problematic and unformed dismissal. Generalizing against groups of people based on skin color is not a step forward - as I thought the author was trying to say, so it seemed counter-productive to offer so little nuance. This area of the book could have been given a more consideration. If we want change, we all have to work together. Coles also makes use of a vast number of metaphors and similes, which felt too much at times, but overuse of these is also a bit of a pet peeve for me, so this could simply be a personal issue. The protagonists may be teenagers, but that is also the case in The Hate U Give and Dear Martin, and I was deeply impressed with both. That being said, the author of Tyler Johnson Was Here is very young, only twenty-two, I believe, and for that, this book is definitely quite a feat. And despite slightly unpolished writing at times, and a few under-developed issues, there were many incredibly moving scenes and the author doesn’t shy away from portraying the protagonist‘s emotions in light of what had happened to his family. I wish Jay Coles success in both his writing and activism, and though this book wasn't perfect, it was a solid way to send a message which I hope is heard and inspires change.

Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com
Profile Image for chloe.
242 reviews28.3k followers
July 17, 2018
“I’ve spent too much time wondering what people think of me and spent so long trying to look good enough for Dodson, for white people, for Mama, for everyone except myself. And I think it’s my time to finally be who I am, who I want to be”

This tackles racism and police brutality, and is an important and powerful read. I am always thankful for these stories for the insight they provide, and I hope to continue seeing BLM novels being published. I will never know/can't even imagine what it's like to be a black teen living in America and experiencing the discrimination and fear that they experience every day.

There was something lacking that I can't quite put my finger on, maybe it was the length of the novel (it's only 304 pages) that couldn't quite make it a 5 star read. Nonetheless, it was an amazing and important read and I am thankful to have read it.
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,734 reviews938 followers
May 8, 2018
I struggled with this rating, but honestly, a good intent doesn't mean a thing if I cannot get into your book. Coles takes on the "Black Lives Matter" movement with "Tyler Johnson Was Here." I saw some people giving lip service to this being just like "The Hate U Give."


Honestly, other books don't have to be like "The Hate U Give." They just need to be able to stand on their own. And "Tyler Johnson Was Here" read like a first draft of a book. This really needed developed more. I felt at times as if I was reading a stage play. Nothing felt authentic. Also there were a lot of plot holes that Coles doesn't address by the end of this book. And there were just way too many similarities with "The Hate U Give" so it felt a bit like this book was trying to piggy-back off of that book's success. There is nothing wrong with that, I mean look at how many authors are still trying to copy "Gone Girl."

I do think it's good that we have these young adult books out here talking about "Black Lives Matter" and police brutality, I just wanted way more than what we get in this one.

"Tyler Johnson Was Here" is told in the first person point of view by Marvin Johnson. Marvin's twin brother Tyler starts hanging out with a gang at school that is selling drugs. Marvin tries his best to talk some sense into Tyler's head about not getting caught up in a world that he barely seems ready to become involved with. When Tyler goes missing and eventually is found dead, Marvin does what he can to make sure that the world remembers his brother.

I really didn't like Marvin that much. He was all over the place as a character. I thought it was weird that a 18 year old teen was into "A Different World" as much as he was too. I don't think that show even comes on TV anymore. There is a mention that he is watching it on Netflix, but I don't know, if I was his age I would probably be watching "Dear White People" or something else.

Speaking of weirdness with Marvin, there is also a scene where we have Marvin eating guacamole for the first time, I even went wait there's no Chipotle there? How the heck do you live anywhere in the U.S. and not know what guacamole tastes like. I am sure it's a dumb thing to get hung up on, but seriously, it took me out of the story.

Besides this, I found the character of Marvin frustrating because the whole thing with him trying to help a drug dealer get out on bail to help him find his brother was really stupid. Even I could see that wasn't going to end well and it was a plot point for way too long.

The other characters were not developed at all in this book. This book is supposed to be about Marvin's brother Tyler, but hey, he's barely in this and doesn't feel like a real presence either. I think if we actually had the book set up more interactions between the two brothers I would have felt more when Tyler goes missing and is found dead. Also since the book synopsis spoils this for readers, you are just waiting for Marvin and his mother to catch up with what you already know.

Marvin's two best could be called stereotype one and two. He has a gay best friend, Ivy, and his other friend who is Hispanic, G-mo. There is a throw away line about G-mo's father being deported and that stopped me in my tracks. There just seemed to be no thought to these characters except to be there to listen to Marvin.

There is a romance that didn't feel realistic at all between Marvin and a girl named Faith. I still wondered why that was even needed in this story. Or they could have just stayed friends.

We also get vague hints about what Marvin's father did to go to jail, but then Marvin says that his father is wrongly imprisoned. Then we find out more details and it's glossed over. Coles decides to show letters from Marvin's father to him, but doing that ruined the flow for me as a reader.

The writing was not good. I don't know what else to say. Plus the dialogue with some of the characters speaking to Marvin had them up there with cartoon villains for me. I still do not get why Marvin's principal was against him going to MIT. Why would that be any of his business? Don't get me started on the MIT recruiter telling Marvin they would love to have them to increase their diversity quotas. I mean, I feel like if that happened in real life you could report someone. The cops in this story were just painted as racist, there's no subtlety at all with the writing.

"This is real life, not the movies. Boys like you don’t have a place at MIT. Or any of the prestigious schools in America.”

“Well, Mr. Dodson, sir, I’d like to think otherwise. I think there’s plenty of room for boys who look like me. But people like you make it hard for us to see that."

I still don't get what the principal's problem was. Marvin apparently is a straight A student and practically aced his SATs. This whole thing was weird. Speaking of that, we only found out about his grades and SATs on page 183 or 63 percent. I didn't even get why Marvin was talking about going there since it didn't seem like he was very into school.

“Listen. I called you, Marv, because I know you’ll listen and understand and, apparently now, will do whatever is necessary to get your brother back.”


“I need your help,” Johntae says slowly. “I’ve got a thousand-dollar bail. If you can get me out of here, I can help you get Tyler back.”

I say, “Deal,” without hesitation. I barely have a buck to my name, but I don’t care. I’ll do anything to have my brother back.

This made not a lick of sense at all. Especially after this is the same person that beat up Marvin, took his chain, and also beat his brother up too.

"G-mo’s—makes us chips and guacamole. I’ve never had it before and it tastes amazing, and something about the lime or the cilantro or whatever else is in it calms my nerves."

First off you have been friends with him how long? And this is the first time his mom has made this? Second, how have you lived in the U.S. and not had guacamole?

“Are you aware that Ms. Tanner signed you up for an interview with MIT at the college fair on Thursday?”

I forget to breathe for a moment. “No, sir?”

“No, sir, what, boy?” he shouts, and I flinch a bit.

“No, I was not aware.”

“I’ve tried calling the MIT admissions office, and they won’t allow me to cancel your appointment with their admissions representative. You know what that means, boy?”

Seriously how the hell did Marvin not report this behavior to his mother or teacher? I feel like this is illegal that a principal could cancel your interview with a school.

The plot holes in this book drove me batty after a while. For example, we hear mention of Marvin's Auntie Nicola. She used to be a cop and isn't (similar, but not the same as Starr's uncle who is a cop in THUG) and just does nothing but call Marvin and his mom. This is after Tyler is found dead. Why wouldn't she be there with her family and at least help planning the funeral?

Speaking of that, no funeral takes place in this book and it's mentioned due to lack of money, but later on there is a mention that they have a lot of money from donations with enough left to send Marvin to school.

Also we have Marvin's mother call the police to report her son missing, but we find out later on that Tyler is shot by a cop that had to happen the same night he went missing. So the police knew at least of one teenage black boy who was dead, why in the world didn't they come back to the family right away to view the body? It made zero sense to me at all.

We don't have much of a trial scene in this book, we just have Marvin and his mother going to a deposition to listen to the witness who shot video of Tyler being murdered. And then later on they just get a letter in the mail telling them that the police officer is going to trial. I mean.. you are telling me a case that involves something like this wouldn't at least have the DA's office calling the family? It was stuff like that kept taking me out of the story.

This book takes place in Alabama, but it doesn't feel real to me. The book just returns to the same places over and over again, Marvin's home, Faith's house, the school, the store, etc. It didn't feel big enough to me while I was reading.

The ending was okay, Coles tries to end things on a good note, but by then I was just ready to close this book and move onto something else.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,230 reviews1,143 followers
February 17, 2019
Contemporary A Thon: Read a diverse contemporary
- Read a contemporary with a picture on the spine

Jar of Death Pick #7 (5th finished)

I bought this book the day it came out but I just couldn't bring myself to read it. Books like this hit extremely close to home for most Black people. We never know when we might get murdered for simply being Black. For White people the police are there to help you, for Black people we don't know if we will survive an interaction with the police. If you are Black you are a threat just by existing.

Tyler Johnson Was Here is about a young man Marvin who has to deal with the unimaginable grief of losing his twin brother Tyler. Tyler Johnson was a kid like a lot of kids who just want to rebel a little. He started hanging out with a tougher crowd and going to parties he wouldn't usually go to. After one of these parties Tyler is stopped while walking by the police and murdered. Luckily the crime is caught on video and quickly goes viral.

I've read some reviews by people who were annoyed that the book ended without a resolution. I don't wanna speak for the author Jay Coles but I feel like he ended it that way because we all know how it ends, the cop who murdered Tyler will get away with it like they always do. For me Tyler Johnson Was Here is less about what happened to Tyler and more about his twin brother Marvin's grief. We don't often get Black books about grief. We get books about anger or the fight for justice but not about the quiet soul crushing grief a loved one feels when this happens to them.

I'm glad I finally read this book. It didn't make me as angry as I thought it would but it still made me super sad. Tyler Johnson Was Here is moving and very relevant. I expect that books like this will continue to be written as long as Black Lives continue not to Matter.

Highly Recommended
Profile Image for Ricky.
Author 8 books159 followers
May 8, 2018
Jay Coles may be young, but don't you dare count that against him. Not when he's got a debut novel so stark and powerful as this one. Cut from much the same cloth as All American Boys, The Hate U Give, and Dear Martin, Tyler Johnson Was Here brings Black Lives Matter to the forefront of YA once again. It's the story of two black boys, twins Tyler and Marvin Johnson, both very smart and very bright and very vivacious, but they're starting to drift apart a bit lately...and then Tyler turns up dead, and video leaks revealing it's a cop who killed him. That much is in the blurb that's been known about the book for months, but what's a little surprising is that this horrific act actually doesn't catalyze the events of the book from the beginning. Instead, it happens more in the middle. I actually appreciated that the book and its marketing were more upfront about what happens, rather than leaving it to be a twist for shock factor or something.

What really stands out about this book is that Tyler isn't a perfect angel. He makes bad choices, hangs out with the wrong people (Johntae, in particular, reeks of so much toxic masculinity.) Still, though, winding up dead for his choices wouldn't happen...in a just world. Which, of course, is precisely the point.

But Tyler and Marvin, they're the kind of characters who pop off the page. Marvin, of course, has to because he's the narrator, but Tyler, as his old womb-mate...well, nobody else can tell Tyler's story the way Marvin can. And all the while, despite the nastiness Marvin gets from the police and Principal Dodson and the like, he's got a great support system from his friends G-mo and Ivy, as well as his girlfriend Faith, and of course his parents. Though we only get to see the twins' dad through letters written from prison, he shows his love just as strongly as Mama does.

The best parts of the book, for me, are the little things in life for which Marvin shows such appreciation. His being a fanboy - specifically, of A Different World, and building on that, his application to Howard University (the other big roll call in this book, other than the names of police brutality victims with Tyler Johnson included, being famous Howard alumni like Taraji P. Henson.) The love of family and friends. And, hell, I couldn't resist a nice chuckle at Marvin talking about "unapologetically masturbating." Wish I could know how that feels, lol.

There's a lot left open at the end of this book, but that works very well for it, because it shows better, and more implicitly, how much work needs to be done to right the wrongs done by racism to this society.

Whatever Jay Coles writes next, you'll be damned sure I'm reading it as soon as possible.

Now to get my work to finally stock this book. My friends and I have now tried TWICE to bring Tyler Johnson to our bosses' attention. Hopefully we won't have to wait for the third time to be the charm on that front.

P.S. I actually had a character named Tyler Jackson in my own books, but after I found out this book was coming out, I decided to rename my character to avoid confusion if and when I ever get published.
Profile Image for kav (xreadingsolacex).
177 reviews345 followers
April 23, 2018
I hated this book with everything in me. And by that, I mean it’s easily one of my favorite books of all-time.

Tyler Johnson Was Here is the story of a teen, Marvin Johnson, whose twin brother, Tyler, goes missing and is later found dead. Tyler Johnson Was Here is a story of the truth, the ugly truth we want to avoid but black people can't avoid because their safety, their freedom, and their lives are at risk because of their skin color.

The first I noticed about this books is how unapologetically rooted in black culture it is. And I don’t just mean in how it tackles police brutality, but I mean in every sentence it is rooted in black culture. And that is so unbelievably beautiful.

The second thing I noticed was how casually diverse this book is. All of our primary characters are black, and I never would have imagined seeing that in a book. Furthermore, there’s also a sapphic secondary character who is honestly my queen. And, to really solidify this, there are three badass black women in this novel.

This book also celebrates relationships of all kinds - familial relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships. The difference between Marvin and the man who murdered his brother is that Marvin's story, though there was so much valid rage and sadness in it, still had love. The man who murdered Tyler only had hate.

And whereas, I loved absolutely *everything* about this novel, including the writing, plot, characters, relationships, and more, I can't focus on any of that here because I need to focus on the most important part of this book - how it tackles police brutality.

I cried so much reading this book [good thing I was in public right?]. I cried when we had to see a cop brutally attack a black teen just for being black. I cried when Tyler went missing. I cried, a lot, when he was found dead. And then, like Marvin, I was angry. I was angry that his brother was ripped from him just because of the color of his skin.

And this book is not purely fiction. This book is the truth of so many black people out there who became a hashtag for two days and then are forgotten and never get justice. And that is what this book will tell you. It will show you the reality you need to see.

And this book is so emotionally powerful. I have a sister who is basically my best friend, and I just couldn’t shake that feeling of the love I have for her while reading this and seeing Marvin lose his best friend, his other half.

It was goddamn painful reading this book. But it’s a book we all need to read because we need to see the truth. We need to acknowledge that Tyler and Marvin's story is not fiction, it’s the reality for black people throughout America.

Read this book. Please.
Profile Image for Abida's Book Adventures.
111 reviews29 followers
March 30, 2018
Warning: This is not a political review by any means. This is just my honest thoughts and opinions about this book. Please do not feel offended by anything that I have written.

AHHHH this book is amazing!!! I have never cried so much in my life before (except when I'm cutting an onion.) This book will give you the feels, you will laugh, cry, and get mad. I have never read a book like this before. On a side note, can we please take a moment to appreciate the book cover; it is gorgeous!

Police Brutality
I consider myself not to be political on Goodreads. It's my happy place, where I find new books read. However, reading this book makes me realize how the fiction we read can easily be real. There are people out there who truly hate other races and cultures for no reason. Living in 2018 one would think that the world is a safe and accepting place, but the truth is that we are nowhere near close to acceptance. We live in the world where scenarios like these are being so common and it's just not enough to like and share a post. Something has to be done.

The Characters
Marvin is truly an inspirational character. I love him, I wish I knew more people like Marvin. His love for his brother was mesmerizing. Reading about Marvin’s perspective as a Black boy was sad. Unfortunately, I have not read enough books with an African American main character, and even fewer books with an African American male. I wish that there were more books with black characters in without that being the main focus.
Marvin's Mama's role was amazing, she had me in tears more than once. On the other hand, the remaining character felt underdeveloped and noticed. I felt as though we needed to know about the surrounding characters and their struggles.

The Plot
The plot was great! However, there were a lot of parts in the book where At the end of this book, I was felt feeling a little hopeless and hopeful at the same. When I finished the book I couldn't believe that I finished the book; it was bittersweet. There were many parts in the book where the book didn’t fully come together, some parts seemed a little unnecessary or too long.

Final Thoughts/ Ratings
Originally I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars but after a few days, I was about to process my thoughts and critique the book better. The reason why I changed the rating because this book seemed to be missing a few things. Some the character seemed to be underdeveloped. Also, the pace of the book seemed to be a little off.
Overall I would recommend this book to anyone. This book showed the other side of the story, it made me realize how normal these tragedies are occurring and how little is being done about it. Reading this book was a great experience.
Profile Image for K..
3,667 reviews1,006 followers
June 28, 2020
Trigger warnings: racism, police brutality, violence, gun violence, death of a sibling, authority figures who shouldn't be in positions of authority oh my God I am so mad right now.

On reread, I'm bumping this down to 4 stars. Why? The pacing more than anything. It's a fairly short book - only 300 pages - and essentially the first half of it is set up and reporting Tyler missing. As a result, the second half of the story feels somewhat rushed. But everything else I said last time around still stands.

With one addition - I love that this book has at least a partial focus on the idea that "I wanted to go to MIT because I was told it was the best place to go, rather than because I wanted to go there" and that when Marvin . Because I feel like so many teenagers get their hearts set on a particular university because that's THE place to go rather than because they actually want to go there.

5 stars. Ow, my feelings.

Okay, first of all, can we please talk about how stunning this cover is? Because it is GLORIOUS. Okay. Let's move on to talking about the story here.

I loved it. I loved everything about it from start to finish. Marvin is a precious little cinnamon roll of a protagonist. I loved his voice, the way he worries about his friends and family members, the way he wants something more from his life, the way he stands up for himself to authority figures including his principal. I loved that his best friends were a Latino boy and a mixed race lesbian, adding an extra layer of diversity to an already diverse story.

The writing is stunning - I highlighted a bunch of different passages that I loved, and I thoroughly appreciated that the story included letters from Marvin's imprisoned father. The story itself is gripping and compelling and heartbreaking. I teared up like ten times and I had to stop reading it on the tram when the tears got a little overwhelming.

It's inevitable that this will be compared to The Hate U Give, as both stories deal with young black men being killed by white police officers over nothing. Both deal with black teenagers deciding to protest over these deaths. Both feature great characters and great writing.

From the perspective of a white woman in her 30s, I see the distinctions thusly:
- THUG does a great job of showing teens of colour that they're seen while being relatable for white readers. It does a great job of showing the realities of life as a black teen, of living between two worlds.
- TJWH does a great job of showing teens of colour that they're VALID. That they're worthy. That their voices deserve to be heard. It also does a great job of spelling out certain ideas for white readers, emphasising how the US school system was set up for white children, how All Lives Matter puts the focus back on white lives, how minorities can be prejudiced but not racist.

Both books are valid. Both books are phenomenal. Anyone who says that the black-kid-shot-by-a-white-cop thing is a cliche clearly hasn't been watching the news any time in the past bajillion years and can get bent.

Now allow me to leave you with my favourite quote: "People will try to convince you that you don’t deserve to live. That you don’t deserve to exist. They’ll ignore your voice. Lock you up. They’ll even kill you to take you out of this world. And through it all, you have to fight. Fight to remind yourself that you do matter. That you do deserve to exist. That you do deserve to have your voice heard."
Profile Image for Aleksandra.
1,409 reviews
April 3, 2018
Tyler Johnson Was Here is amazing book and definitely one of my favorite reads of the year! It's beautifully written, the characters are complex and their relationships are realistic. It's a YA contemporary about life, grief, anger and hurt black people have to live with and through in the USA in the 21th century.

The book is told from the point of view of Marvin Johnson, who's twin brother Tyler goes missing after the party went wrong. Marvin and his best friends G-mo and Ivy start looking for him.
The story has a major plot arc, revolving around Tyler and his case affecting lifes of his family and friends. Also we get to see many slice-of-life type of chapters and scenes, and I love learning more about Marvin, his friends, his mother and father. The book has just a dash of romance, realistically written and it adds perfectly to the whole book.
Marvin has strong, memorable voice, it was a pleasure to hear his voice with all the beautiful, heart-breaking and heart-felt moments.

I love Marvin's best friends. G-mo has great sense of humor, he's the heart of the group, he's Colombian. Ivy is biracial lesbian and she wants to study in STEM area. Ivy is great, I love her!
Ivy, G-mo and Marvin's friendship is beautiful, they are supportive and caring and I love reading about the three of them.

I really like all of these kids.

Tyler Johnson Was Here brings attention to issues, millions of black people suffer from now. Police brutality, racial profiling, lack of justice for murdered black people by the white police officers... Marvin's story is important and needs to be heard, Tyler's story is important and needs to be heard, like many other similar cases... The change needs to happen but the system won't change until the people demand it and fight for it.

Jay Coles has written an amazing book, I couldn't put it down and breathes through it in just two days, it's a perfectly balanced and great piece of literature.
I can't recommend the book enough. Please read it!
Profile Image for Emilyx.
221 reviews47 followers
June 11, 2020
“I tell myself that I love this skin, that I’ve always loved my blackness, that if the world doesn’t love me, I will love myself for the both of us. After reminding myself that I matter, that I always mattered, that Tyler mattered and still does, I make a promise to myself. I promise that I’ll never be silent about things that matter, that I’ll keep on saying his name for the rest of my days.”

It’s uncanny how much the events of Tyler Johnson Was Here—published in 2018—parallel the George Floyd protests today, in 2020. There are so many similarities that it chills your blood. An unarmed black man killed by a racist cop; a girl filming the murder; racial profiling leading to knees on backs and police brutality; the video going viral, spawning hashtags and debate from social justice warriors; an impactful protest turning violent; riot police firing rubber bullets and infringing upon the First Amendment; a family torn apart; Twitter bigots unleashing a tirade of hate; an agonizing trial and a contested murder charge; frustration and grief, almost resigned to the fact that this same story happens again and again and will continue to do so until America wakes up. Even the chants and the hashtags are the same ones being uttered in the streets today and trending today, word-for-word. No justice, no peace. What does it mean, that a fictional book from 2018 is being played out in real life, once again?

No, Tyler Johnson Was Here isn’t a literary masterpiece—it’s very YA, and it’s as subtle as a brick (an observation which Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie decries in Americanah, because not all black-voices literature has to be subtle to be powerful)—but its merits lie elsewhere. Jay Coles writes with heart and passion, practically pleading with the world to redress anti-black police brutality. He gives an intimate look at the emotional fallout that will irrevocably impact the victim’s family. The book makes you feel empathy and the burn of injustice. It’s a highly relevant must-read.

Before reading it, I happened upon a New York Times op-ed posted this morning, arguing that this time, it will be different and America will change, George Floyd being the straw that broke the camel’s back. Perhaps it’s true, and the flood of outrage, grief, and protesting isn’t falling on deaf ears, and so the Tyler Johnsons of real life can finally rest in peace.

“My pops used to warn us about the police. He used to say, like all things in the world, there are good ones and bad ones. He used to say get a good look at the cop’s face ’cause that makes all the difference. He used to say memorize the badge number or the license plate number. That’s why I recorded what I saw after the party. Video footage seems like the only way people will even hear us sometimes.”
Profile Image for TheEuphoricZat.
1,200 reviews38 followers
January 27, 2019
Woah!!! This book packed a punch.
This is a different perspective of the outcome of police brutality and it just brings the world problem to the surface again.
As a black person who has lived in Africa (Nigeria) all my life it is a bit difficult for me to express and feel the pain of racism. But I did work in the US during the summer and I felt the difference my skin color made to a lot of people. I would agree that not everyone see it this way.
There is this part in the book where Marvin talks about how afraid he and other people in the community are afraid of the people who are supposed to protect them and that got me thinking, if the police who is supposed to protect the people are killing children! It's like the police go to the academy just to protect white people and that's bullshit!!!
It shows the grief and the unity of the black community and their will to fight for what is right and at the same time move on and make something great of themselves.
This book is just a fantastic read.
I am just looking for a book about police brutality that has a POV of the police officer who shot someone because I want to know if it is hate, confusion, racism or if he was afraid, because God knows I don't know what is going through their minds.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,327 reviews435 followers
February 12, 2019
For a book about a black life that mattered, I know nothing about Tyler Johnson or his twin brother, Marvin. This entire story is about Marvin and his twin brother, Tyler, and how they matter.

I feel about this the same way I feel about I Am Alfonso Jones - the story is going to resonate with some readers, they will feel Marvin's anger, confusion, and despair, they will understand the rage and loss he feels at finding his brother was another unarmed black youth killed by a white police officer. They will know the love of Marvin's circle of friends and family.
I felt none of those things. I felt like I slogged through a longer-than-necessary fanfic of The Hate U Give without ever being engaged in the story. I felt like the writing was amateur which kept the story from having the human complexity it deserves. I felt like every single character was a cardboard cut-out of some stereotype, from the poor, single mother of two boys to the high school drug-running gang hanger-onner, to the wise and hot girlfriend, to the clueless principal, to the super well-meaning wannabe ally white lady teacher, to the main character and his default other main character twin.

Maybe I shouldn't have been taken in by the cover (it's gorgeous!) and maybe I shouldn't have read this while also reading The Color Purple and maybe I shouldn't have hoped this would be Angie Thomas- or Jason Reynolds-level great. Maybe had I read this before any other book on the subject, I would have been able to feel engaged in this story. But maybe not.

Black Lives Matter is an important topic and I hope this reaches the audience it's intended for, I hope it changes minds and brings a sense of solidarity as needed. I'm sorry I couldn't be part of that group.

That cover, though. It really is gorgeous.
Profile Image for Sol ~ TheBookishKing.
303 reviews180 followers
March 23, 2018
DNF @ 35%

Y'all ever have those books that you just KNOW are going to be so amazing and beautiful and then you start it and it's like you get hit by a big o'le "NOPE" train?! That's exactly how I felt with this book. I was expecting something empowering and moving and uhmmmmmm I was just heavily annoyed. The characters are so bland and the writing is bland. I JUST REALLY WANTED TO LOVE THIS OKAY. I REALLY DID. but yeah nope, it just didn't cut it for me. I do love that with this coming out that there is more ... I don't know the word ohgosh ... publicity? for the BLM movement and that it's more out there, it's flipping AMAZING, but this one was just bad and I'm seriously so salty that I want to rant for about 6543542542547 years.

The whole premise of this book is Important and Needs to be out there in the media, it's just that I am Book Slumping so hard this year and I can't handle poor writing and poor character development. It all just felt off and IDK I can't explain it, but just reading it made me so annoyed. This is also an Own Voices novel which makes me DNF'ng it make me feel like a jerk. Yikes. :\

I'm not going to rate it though just because I don't want a poor rating on it when it's just the writing and characters that suck, the story has meaning and don't want to take down the overall writing just because I'm bitter and salty.
Profile Image for Romie.
1,074 reviews1,272 followers
April 21, 2018
People will try to convince you that you don’t deserve to live.
That you don't deserve to exist.
They’ll ignore your voice. Lock you up.
They’ll even kill you to take you out of this world.
And through it all, you have to fight. Fight to remind yourself that you do matter. That you do deserve to exist. That you do deserve to have your voice heard.

I dare you to read this book without crying at least once. I personally couldn’t. It is one of the hardest books I’ve ever had to read. I hate my reading experience. Simply hated it. I wanted to stop reading every five seconds simply because I couldn’t stop wanting to cry. This book is brutal, this book is the harsh truth. This book will break your heart, will make you want to scream, will make you understand that things cannot stay the way they are right now.

This is the story of a black boy losing his twin to police brutality. This is the story of Marvin trying to know where is brother Tyler is, what happened to him. This is the story of Tyler being murdered by a police officer simply because he’s black. He’s not murdered for carrying a weapon, or being a bad guy, but for the colour of his skin. And you know what? Even if he were carrying a weapon, which he wasn’t, or were a bad guy, which he still wasn’t, he still wouldn’t have deserved to die. And yet he did. He did because American, my dear, your racism is showing. You’re not fooling anyone with your ‘men are all created equal’ because it looks like you don’t believe in your own Constitution.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the writing, nor of the romance, but these things don’t matter when this story is so important, when this story deserves to be read. This book will break you into pieces because of how raw and powerful it is. This book is a cry for justice. A cry for black people to stop being murdered by police officers, people who should be the very ones protecting them.

I read it in two hours, I couldn’t put it down, I could stop my tears from falling, but I had to keep on reading.

Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,692 followers
October 10, 2018
My heart ached the whole time I read this. Tyler Johnson Was Here is a vivid and heartbreaking portrait of grief, loss, and a young black teen navigating his life after it is turned upside down following a fatal act of police brutality.

- This book explores how police brutality in the U.S., perpetuated against black people by police officers, have significant, terrible, and personal consequences.
- Tyler Johnson has a powerful and distinct narrative voice. I loved Coles's portrayal of a Marvin, a black teen who has just lost his brother and struggles to come to terms with everything - the grief and pain, the injustice, powerlessness but also the power of support and solidarity, finding his voice, and finding himself.
- Black Lives Matter is an integral part to this book - and I liked how Coles's portrays the importance of the movement as something that isn't just socio-political, but also inherently and concretely personal.
- Emphasises the importance of relationships and community, and how they can be an anchor in trying times -- familial, friendship and unexpected friends, strangers standing in solidarity.
- The writing was a little uneven at times and some of the dialogue a little rough around the edges, but this did not affect the readability of the book for me.

FYI (since a few reviewers 'conveniently' turned off their reading comprehension after reading a few pieces of dialogue to justify vitriol against this book, even though the dialogue in question was challenged immediately after... lmao):
A distinct message in this book is that racism and racist rhetoric can be perpetuated by people of any race. As Ivy said literally in the next line, 'it's about racists against everyone else'.
Profile Image for Ardent Reader.
221 reviews213 followers
July 5, 2019

This is very similar to the The hate you give by Angie Thomas.
This book reveals about the skin discrimination where all black people are being cornered in the life which is happening even right now in the world.
Profile Image for Cody Roecker.
816 reviews
Want to read
January 20, 2017
Jay Coles is a voice we need in YA today, and you bet your ass I am going to read this book. And I will more likely than not be pushing this on everyone I meet once I have done so.

I need this immediately
Profile Image for Rena.
464 reviews258 followers
April 28, 2018
This cover... 💖

Dewey's #Readathon Book 2 - I had only 100 or so pages left to read, so I finished this one pretty quickly. I have thoughts about Tyler Johnson Was Here, and I'll leave them here later...
Profile Image for eli ♡ .
160 reviews142 followers
February 5, 2021
Wow, um, alright. First of all, this is not going to be a proper review. If you want that, I'm sorry, but you're not getting that right now. But before we even talk about the book itself, look at the cover. Just look at that beautiful, marvelous, and amazing cover.

The cover is literally what drew me to this novel in the first place, and I'm so glad I read it. The characters made me laugh, the events in the story made me cry, and the storytelling did nothing for me.

So this story is about a twin named Marvin Johnson who goes to a party with his twin brother, Tyler Johnson. While they're at the party, some shady stuff goes down, and Marvin has no idea of what happened to Tyler. So Marvin goes searching for the now missing Tyler with an ally named Faith. But when a video is released of Tyler being shot and killed by a police officer on his way home, everything changes. People on social media keep throwing around hashtags and advocate for Tyler's justice, while many others call him a "thug" and said that he deserved to die. This doesn't make anything better as Marvin and his mother are mourning the loss of Tyler, so Marvin must learn what justice and freedom truly mean.

Now y'all already know that I love reading books about social justice, and that's exactly what this book was. I truly adored this story because the storyline was just so enthralling. It's hard me to explain, but I was always captivated while reading this. I never wanted to put this book down because of all the events taking place in this novel.

And the characters, oh the characters. Let's start with Marvin. Marvin was a Blerd, a Black nerd, and he was "meh". He was pretty naive and all "goody-goody", so I wasn't really feeling that. I do wish that he was more developed as he goes from someone who was aware of problems in the Black community, but didn't do anything about it and minded his business, to someone who acknowledged and made changes to the problems affecting not only the Black community, but all people of color. Even though I did appreciate this drastic change, I wanted more from him. And Faith, Marvin's search ally, had even less development. To be honest, I don't remember much about her, except that she was the ex-girlfriend of the "biggest gang-banger" in their neighborhood.

Also, Marvin and Faith had some type of relationship going on, but that wasn't the premise of the story. It was kinda like a smidge of romance that was sprinkled into the book to give it more spice that it didn't really need. And I remember that Marvin had some other friends, but they didn't have any development, so we're not going to talk about them.

The writing in this novel was pretty surface level. It wasn't anything spectacular, didn't blow my mind, but it didn't make the story unbearable. I liked how the story was told from Marvin's POV, I just wish that there was more word building. Again, the writing wasn't great, but it told the story and it did its job.

Now after all this, you may be wondering "if this seemed like a 4-star-read based on how you described it, why did you give this book 5 stars?", then I'll tell you. I don't really know why I gave this novel 5 stars, to be honest. I think that this was one of the books that I gave a high rating to because of my enjoyment and my emotional attachment to the book, instead of giving it a rating from a critical view. Honestly, I just hope you guys read it. I enjoyed this read, but now I'm contemplating giving it 4 stars.
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