Tyler Johnson Was Hereby Published 20 Mar 2018
|Tyler Johnson Was Here.pdf|
|Publisher||Little, Brown Books for Young Readers|
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" Reviews
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.
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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.
This is such a heartwrenching (and important) read. And I am just a bucket of sad right now...this one hit hard. I'm really glad books like this are getting published (and #ownvoices narratives are so important) so when I say "this is depressing" I don't mean it's something that shouldn't be said!! We need to be told these types of stories again and again until the world changes.
But seriously I am just 😭😭
I also want to whisper that I I loooove the cover so much. It is so soft™ and I feel like it's such an important cover because here is are flowers and life and a boy who deserves better and it's just sUCH a good cover.
So this book is about police brutality, but it also focuses on the "everyday" parts of racism. And I cannot freaking comprehend how it would be to live like these black teens have to live. Like when Marvin is going to a protest his mother literally says don't have anything in your pockets...like not even a phone...so he can't be mistaken for being armed. Look I'm Australian, so this is mind-boggling to me, (not that Australia isn't hella racist, because it is...but at least we don't have gun violence like this). And there's one scene where Marvin and his friends are litearlly at a store BUYING SNACKS and they nearly got shot for "shoplifting". Like wtf, America, what. is. going. on. Even if they were shoplifting (but it was purely assuming they were because they're black and this is so rotten) you do not get shot for that??!?? It was so eye opening for me, and I really felt the devastation on every page of kids who just don't deserve this but it's their life.
It does mix hope with the sadness though! I'm glad that's in there. I can imagine this book will be so important to so many black teens (and all types of teens because everyone should be reading books like this!) but just to give encouragement as well as give you room to cry and be angry.
(Also I LOVE how emotional the characters were!! Marvin cried and he cried a lot and I just !! I think it's important for books to show emotional boys.)
I do think the writing has room to grow! Which isn't really a negative! I just felt a few times it needed a bit more of a wordsmithing hone but that could just personal taste too. Aaaand I wasn't a super fan of the romance just because, eh??! I felt Faith was a bit one-dimensional and romance in books that deal about really dark/brutal topics always feels a bit thrown in to me. (But I'm a super unromantic person so.)
IT'S A GOOD BOOK AND IT'S DEVASTATING. I'm glad I read it and got to meet Marvin and take this tumultuous journey with him.😭
It's best to cry when it's dark and I'm alone. So right now isn't the time to cry, even though I feel like just busting out in a watery stream.
We have to do everything within our power to raise our voices. We have to protest. Just praying and hoping for justice and grace and mercy won't help us now.
Faith tells me that Frederick Douglass said, "I prayed for twenty years. Nothing happened until I got off my knees and started marching with my feet."
“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.
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.