Tyler Johnson Was Here


Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Marvin Johnson isn’t the kind of guy who goes to a lot of parties. Instead he’s the kind of guy who hangs out with his two best friends, watching the classic television sitcom A Different World. And when he isn’t watching it, he’s quoting it.

But here it is Friday night, and instead of just hanging with his friends, he’s at a party, trailing his twin brother, Tyler.

Tyler can take care of himself, but he just doesn’t trust the crew he’s being hanging out with lately. So when gunshots ring out, Marvin runs as fast as he could. And he hopes that Tyler made it out too.

Even though Marvin can’t seem to find Tyler in the chaos,he’s sure he’ll be home. But when hours turn into days, Marvin knows that Tyler isn’t just missing. He knows something terrible has happened to him.

All it takes is a leaked video to confirm all of Marvin’s worst fears. How will Marvin keep Tyler alive? How will he keep from his mother being consumed in grief?

Tyler Johnson Was Here, written by author Jay Coles, is a contemporary read that packs an emotional punch. Similar to such stories as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Dear Martin by Nic Stone, author Coles has been his own unique stamp and viewpoint on writing about hate crimes.

Coles writing is strong, but direct. He doesn’t beat around the bush, but gets the hard hitting point. More than that, his writing paints a darkly vivid image of reality: that life is often unjust and cruel, but that we can rise above it all. But what I enjoyed most of all about Coles’ writing is the emotion in it. I couldn’t help but feel each and every word.

I truly appreciated Coles’ writing. And the story that he was telling.  But there was one, glaring aspect that I struggled with: his main characters. I thought, going into this book, that Marvin and Tyler Johnson were going to be memorable characters. But they weren’t. Sadly they fell flat. And that’s because I feel like I didn’t know them. This was a big flaw for me.

.While I really did enjoy reading Tyler Johnson Was Here, this was not my perfect book. Even though I couldn’t put this book down, I felt like I kept waiting. A big chunk of the plot was spent reading about Marvin’s search for Tyler – searching the neighborhood, the school yard, and all his local hangouts. At one point I felt as if it was chapter after chapter of just searching. I get it, but as a reader I felt it was unnecessary. It was easy to sum up what had happened.

These two facts are what kept Tyler Johnson Was Here from being a five star book for me. But even though the book had its flaws, it still is an important book. And it’s a book that I am happy to have read, because it is story that kept me emotionally invested. But more than that, it’s a story that isn’t only powerful, it’s also important.

(Cover image from Goodreads)