The Hate U Give meets All American Boys in this striking and heartbreaking debut novel, commenting on current race relations in America.
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 stunning account of police brutality in modern America.
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 jaycoleswrites.com.
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.)
An Entertainment Weekly Most Anticipated Book of the Year
"Exploring the current climate of police brutality and viral culture, this harrowing YA effort is based on its author's own experiences with tragedy and loss, a personal touch felt across every page."Entertainment Weekly
"An unflinching look at police brutality and systemic racism in America."Bustle
* "This well-written, fast-paced story eloquently addresses how to grieve, plan, and participate in the burial of a loved one....[A] standout debut."School Library Journal, starred review
* "Unforgettable....Coles' exploration of brotherhood, grief, friendship, and familial ties is as moving and relevant as its exploration of racism."Booklist, starred review
"Coles...pens an immersive and uncompromising look at systemic police violence in the U.S., effectively dramatizing the human experience and ethical questions underpinning today's Movement for Black Lives."Kirkus Reviews
"A distressing yet empowering portrait of a black teenager confronting relentless racism, brutality, and tragedy."Publishers Weekly
"Clear-eyed, authentic, and heartfelt, Tyler Johnson Was Here is a captivating must-read."Karen M. McManus, New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying
"Gripping from the very first scene, Tyler Johnson Was Here is a powerful and vulnerable immersion into the lives of people who are too rarely given a voice."Adi Alsaid, author of Let's Get Lost and Never Always Sometimes
"Tyler Johnson Was Here refuses to pull its punches. Marvin's story will remake you. The careful prose, the heartbreaking story, but also the triumph of a young man in the face of an often lightless world. Jay Coles delivers the first book in what will be an illuminating career."Scott Reintgen, author of NyxiaFrom the Publisher
★ 02/01/2018School Library Journal
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
Coles' debut takes on the heartbreaking outcomes of a broken system of policing. Through language that honors the enraging aspects of life in the inner city, readers meet Marvin and Tyler Johnson, twin high school seniors at a crossroads. Narrator Marvin jokes that their family story can feel like the stereotype for black boys. Their father is in jail, and Mama works extra hard to keep the family stable, leaving room for the influence of the streets to creep into their lives. All this is irrelevant when a police officer shoots Tyler dead after he attends a questionable neighborhood party. This is not the first time that Marvin and his friends have witnessed police violence. They've seen officers lift firearms at children, slam them to the ground, and verbally abuse them, with no consequences. Deep down, Marvin knows that he cannot become the hate that he senses in the world around him. This family's struggle to find resolve, peace, and even a twinge of justice is full of life lessons, including this gem inspired by Auntie Nicola, a former cop: "Life is about wading in the rain, in all the storm's fury…becoming one and the same with the storm—getting angry, getting heated, and being the change you want." Coles, just 21, pens an immersive and uncompromising look at systemic police violence in the U.S.While the author's toolbox has some room for growth, he effectively dramatizes the human experience and ethical questions underpinning today's Movement for Black Lives. (Fiction. 14-18)