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Tyler Johnson was here
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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Coles' unforgettable debut opens with a haunting incident of police brutality that sets the tone for the rest of the book. As Marvin, his twin brother, Tyler, and their best friends exit a convenience store, they are caught in the commotion surrounding a police chase. After the cop viciously beats one of the young men he was pursuing, he draws a gun on Marvin and his group, threatening to shoot as he yells racial hostilities. Guns appear once more when Marvin and Tyler attend a house party and a shooting breaks out, drawing the police. Amidst the chaos, Marvin loses track of his brother, who never comes home. Days afterward, detectives visit Marvin's house and inform him and his mother that Tyler was killed in a gang-related incident; but later, a video surfaces that shows a cop murdering Tyler, proving the detectives' claims false. In the aftermath of Tyler's murder, Marvin must grapple with his grief while also dealing with the social and racial outrage his brother's death sparks. Coles' story offers a glimpse into the injustices, struggles, and pain of being a black male in America. In addition, it crafts an authentic depiction of black life that shatters stereotypes. Its exploration of brotherhood, grief, friendship, and familial ties is as moving and relevant as its exploration of racism. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Cole's debut novel, based on events in his own life, follows Marvin Johnson, a college-bound senior at Alabama's Sojourner Truth High School. From the opening pages, Marvin and his twin brother, Tyler, navigate racism, drug dealers, and police violence, their lives governed by the "talk that all decent black mothers and fathers give to their children at least once a month. The You-Live-in-a-White-Man's-World-So-Be-Careful talk." Marvin's life takes a turn from hanging out with his "high-ability geek" friends, doing homework, and binge-watching A Different World when a party ends in a shoot-out, a police raid, and Tyler's disappearance. Periodic letters from Marvin's imprisoned father convey a poignant vulnerability, while Marvin's penetrating narrative voice captures the relentless anxiety and questioning that accompanies every choice he faces, from how to address Tyler's friendship with a local drug dealer to how to behave when witnessing police beat an innocent black teenager. It's a distressing yet empowering portrait of a black teenager confronting relentless racism, brutality, and tragedy. Ages 14–up. Agent: Lauren Abramo, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Mar.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 9 Up—Narrated by 17-year-old Marvin Johnson, this novel gives readers a glimpse into the life and the tragic death of his identical twin Tyler. Their family is headed by a single mother separated from her husband due to incarceration. It's senior year and for the first time, the twins are growing apart. Tyler now prefers his friends over all else, forsaking academics and his curfew. Marvin, on the other hand, is questioning the change and feeling an imbalance in the relationship. Gang violence erupts in a party both twins attend and Tyler ends up dead from an unprovoked altercation with a police officer. Marvin, who was being scouted by MIT for a college scholarship, begins a downward spiral that could only end with the clearing of his deceased brother's name as a wrongdoer. Social media, as in real life, plays a vital part in the advocacy for victims' rights at the hands of police, as well as for the efforts needed to organize public protests and vigils in memory of Tyler. Tensions arise in the community between proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement and those who push for "All Lives Matter" in response. This well-written, fast-paced story eloquently addresses how to grieve, plan, and participate in the burial of a loved one, a sensitive subject for all youth. It also succeeds in not avoiding tough subjects, such as systemic racism. VERDICT For fans of All-American Boys and The Hate U Give, this emotion-filled title is a standout debut.—Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal.

Author Biography

Jay Coles is a graduate of Vincennes University and Ball State University. When he's not writing diverse books, he's advocating for them, teaching middle school students, and composing for various music publishers. His debut novel Tyler Johnson Was Here is based on true events in his life and inspired by police brutality in America. He resides in Indianapolis, Indiana, and invites you to visit his website at - (Grand Central Pub)


Accompanying his twin to a party that is thrown into chaos by a shooting, Marvin, a multicultural teen, is horrified when his brother goes missing and is found dead, possibly at the hands of a racist police officer. 50,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook. - (Baker & Taylor)

"When Marvin Johnson's twin brother, Tyler, is shot and killed by a police officer, Marvin must fight injustice to learn the true meaning of freedom"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

When Marvin Johnson's twin brother, Tyler, is shot and killed by a police officer, Marvin must fight injustice to learn the true meaning of freedom. - (Baker & Taylor)

A young man searches for answers after the death of his brother at the hands of police in this striking debut novel, for readers of The Hate U Give.

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 is a powerful and moving portrait of youth and family that speaks to the serious issues of today--from gun control to the Black Lives Matter movement. - (Grand Central Pub)

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