Every time that I look at this cover, I just go *squeeeee*! Before I jump into my review of Tyler Johnson Was Here, here’s a look at the summary:
“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.”
So, the first thing that I noticed about Tyler Johnson Was Here was the cover. I mean, how could you not notice it? It’s gorgeous, and I’m all for more soft black boys in YA. But beyond the cover, I have mixed feelings about this novel. Firstly, I’ll start by saying that Tyler Johnson Was Here was definitely an intense read. This intensity was mostly due to the subject matter, and to the fact that though readers know that Tyler has been killed by the police, the protagonist, Marvin, doesn’t know that for the first half of the novel. Situational irony is what I believed it’s called.
It took me a while to get into the story, mostly due to the prose. I found the prose to be a bit choppy, and at times I felt it read more as middle-grade rather than young-adult. In terms of characters, I loved Marvin but I didn’t feel as though I really got to connect with him as much as I wanted to. The same goes for his group of friends. I wanted a little bit more. There was also a romance plot that appeared in the second half of the book that I felt was unnecessary and slightly underdeveloped.
As a whole, I was expecting a lot more due to the cover, and the subject matter, and the reviews from authors. I think this story is incredibly important, and commended any black author for writing a novel centered around police brutality because that does take bravery. However, I wouldn’t put Tyler Johnson Was Here in the same category as The Hate U Give, which I know a lot of readers did. I’d put Tyler Johnson Was Here more in line with All American Boys (highly recommend), which reads to me as a bit more high middle-grade and young-young adult.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading Tyler Johnson Was Here because these narratives are so so important, especially for black YA readers such as myself. And while I don’t not recommend it because it’s a solid read, I have to be honest in saying that I expected a bit more going into it.
Happy reading, happy writing, and happy blogging!