Book Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here – Jay Coles

Tyler Johnson Was Here

A party, a raid, a body. Marvin Johnson wants to be closer to his twin brother, who’s been drifting recently. After going to a party with him, Marvin’s life will change forever. Shots are fired and in the middle of a police raid Marvin loses sight of Tyler, what he doesn’t know is that he’ll never see him alive again. After searching Marvin gets the news that Tyler is dead, murdered by a police officer. How can he make sense of the world now?

This book is a masterpiece. I absolutely loved this and it deserves to be read everywhere. I had to go to Foyles in London (which I’m not complaining about it’s one of the best shops in the world) to get this and I haven’t seen it in any local stores! But why did I love it so much?

At the beginning of the novel, we meet Marvin, a high school straight A student with a bright future ahead of him. Kind, quiet and caring Marvin is worried about his twin brother, which leads to the previously mentioned party, and Tyler’s death. The novel quickly delves into the world of racial hatred and shooting of young, unarmed black men that we see again and again in the US.

This is a novel, ultimately about family and identity. The fact that Tyler is murdered at the hands of a police officer isn’t the shocking part to the family. These boys are brought up to be wary of police and that was heartbreaking. Their father is already in prison, their mother working as hard as she can to raise them. Is it any wonder that without his brother by his side Marvin feels lost and confused.

A central part of this novel is how Marvin see’s himself. Should he be continuing to try his hardest, to be respectful and separate himself from the stereotype of where he’s from when that’s all people see? Or should he just embrace it? There are parts within the novel where you just want to reach out to him, especially when he mentions his brother has ‘become a hashtag’.

I gave this novel 5 stars. It’s an important read for modern times. Incredibly, this is Jay Coles’s debut novel I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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