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Tyler Johnson Was Here: 04/28/18

Tyler Johnson Was Here

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles is a debut novel based on true events in the author's life (per the description). Tyler is the older brother of a set of twins and his story is told by his younger (by three minutes) brother, Marvin.

Marvin, Tyler, and their mother live in a small apartment in an urban area. There is gang activity. There is police brutality. There is racial profiling. There is poverty. Their mother sees college as their way out of all of this. Marvin, though he's the louder, mouthier twin, is on track to attend MIT.

Tyler, the quiet twin, has gotten involved in dealing drugs. Times are tough. Money is tight. But it's not his drug dealing that gets him killed. He's shot three times in the back by a cop.

Tyler Johnson Was Here, though, isn't the same story as The Hate You Give but with a male protagonist. It's a messier, angrier story. It's the harsh, messed up reality that a Marvin's mother has to rely on the police to help her find her son, and later rely on them to investigate his death, when they are responsible for his death.

For Marvin's part of the story, it's about how much more difficult being Black makes everything. Marvin has to work so much harder to prove himself. He's called into the principal's office numerous times because his work isn't good enough or is making a mockery of the school because he's taking inspiration outside of the acceptable Black role models. For instance, A Different World isn't art according to Marvin's teacher and the principal, and can't be considered inspirational.

Not surprisingly, this book has an inverse bell curve of ratings. People either love it or they hate it. Those who hate it almost always point out the language. There is swearing. There are words in there I would never use. But this is Marvin's world. He's growing up in a city with increasing amounts of police brutality and more and more examples of white people using the police to keep Black people out of areas where they want to be. If you want to get mad over something, get mad about racism, about police brutality, about double standards, about White privilege.

Five stars

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Tuesday, May 01, 2018 at 11:08:33

Kristin @ Book Sniffers Anonymous

I'm surprised that I haven't seen this book floating around more in the blogosphere. It sounds like a very emotional and powerful read. I loved The Hate U Give because it gave the readers a glimpse into Starr's world. This one sounds like am ore grittier version

Comment #2: Tuesday, May 01, 2018 at 08:54:00


Angie Thomas is more active on social media than Jay Coles. You can see that in their books too. THUG shows the way social media is fueling protests, where as Tyler Johnson Was Here focuses more on the family devastation and the way that the current environment is encouraging White people to fear Black people.

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