ARC review, book review, young adult

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (ARC Review)

Title: Tyler Johnson Was Here
Author: Jay Coles
Type: Fiction
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group)
Date published: March 20, 2018

A physical copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest 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.

– My Review –

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The first time that I heard about this book was when the cover was revealed, late last year (if I remember correctly). I saw the reveal on Twitter, and remember falling in love with the cover! If you couldn’t tell from my blog header, I am obsessed with graphics in which text is semi-obscured by floral elements. A blogger friend actually asked me if I had secretly designed the cover for Tyler Johnson Was Here, haha, but I sadly can’t take credit for that!

When I read either the blurb, or full synopsis, for the book (I can’t remember if the latter had come out yet), I remember hesitating. I don’t deal with death and grief very well, and don’t deal too well with books that make me cry either (which I knew this book would definitely do). But I just felt so drawn to this book, and because it was written in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, I felt as if I really should read it. I felt like it was a responsibility, or a requirement, considering the person that I think myself to be, or the person that I want to become. So, I requested an ARC!

The cover is as beautiful in person, as it was digitally (if not more so), and I still felt drawn to the book. The character on the cover (I still don’t know if it’s Tyler, or Marvin, or if the illustration is supposed to represent both twins) had started to look like someone I had known for some time because of how many times I’d picked this book up and looked at the cover. I will admit, that I was very afraid of what this book would make me feel. I don’t like feeling sad, and there was no doubt in my mind that Tyler Johnson Was Here would make me bawl my eyes out. But, yesterday, I had finally caught up on my other March reads, picked up this book, and settled down with it in the hopes of reading a good chunk out of it. I ended up reading it from cover to cover all in one day though! It was certainly not an easy read (and I did have to take breaks after some of the more violent and/or emotional scenes), but it was also a quick read. The plot drew me in, and I became invested in Marvin and Tyler’s stories. This book has left a profound effect on me, because A) it was difficult to see the story develop, and characters go about their day, when I knew due to the synopsis that Tyler would eventually die, and B) it was close to impossible for me to imagine the world that these characters lived in!

I mean, sure, as a two-time immigrant from an Eastern European country, my family and I have had to deal with prejudice and such, not only in Austria, but in Canada as well. But we are white, and our story doesn’t come even close to the story of Marvin and his friends and family, and the stories of all of the people actually living in areas rife with violence and poverty simply because of the colour of their skin. It was a shock for me to read a book set in this particular setting, but it was also a necessary shock, and I believe that much of the population is in need of such a shock before they can recognize some of the flaws in our society.

I could go on and on about the issues addressed in Tyler Johnson Was Here, but I would rather recommend this book to everyone, and have everyone read about these issues for themselves. This is a very important book, and while it left my heart in a mangled heap, I find that it was a necessary pain, and that I grew from my experience with Tyler Johnson Was Here. I most certainly see the world through a different lens now.

– About the Author –


Jay Coles is a MG and YA author. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with two dogs nicknamed Bonnie and Clyde. Also, Jay is a teacher, blogger, composer/musician and a proud member of ASCAP!

– Purchase Links –

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