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“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"
-- Provided by publisher.

Tyler Johnson Was Here
New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2018.

Marvin and Tyler are twin brothers. There was an unbreakable bond between the brothers. Their dad is incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. He communicates with his sons through letter writing to keep their relationship with one another until he is finally released from jail. The two brothers, Marvin and Tyler Johnson have a good relationship with each other. Marvin Johnson attends a party with his twin brother, Tyler Johnson and tries to keep an eye on him. The party goes wrong and what starts as a harmless fun turn into a shooting followed by a police raid.

After the chaos Tyler is nowhere to be found. He has gone missing, and it is up to his brother, Marvin to find him A few days after the shooting and the police raid at the party, the missing Tyler is found dead. As Marvin and his mother are mourning Tyler’s death, a chilling video of Tyler’s murder is leaked. He was shot and killed by a police officer. Meanwhile, as their terrified mother and Marvin are trying to learn the true meaning of freedom and justice, rumors are circulating that Tyler was another thug that needed to be kept off the streets and so deserved to be killed.


As the trial of the police officer who murdered Tyler draws near, Marvin, Tyler’s brother struggles with the decision to go against the prevailing belief in their community that his brother was a thug. Marvin and his family sticks together to grieve after Tyler was found dead. His sadness about the murder of his brother is palpable on every page of the novel. As he tries to make sense of it all, Marvin

“Some days, when I do, I just stare at the blackness I see in

the mirror hanging on my closet door. I tell myself that I love this skin,
that I’ve always loved my blackness, that if the world doesn’t love me,
I will love myself for the both of us. After reminding myself that I
matter, that I’ve always mattered, that Tyler mattered and still does, I
make a promise to myself to never be silent about things that

Marvin and people like him face stereotyping and racism from kids at school, in the neighborhood, and by police officers who are supposed to protect and not murder them. Police officers stop Marvin and others like him and don’t trust them because they are black. The scenes of community policing and police brutality in the book are detailed, intense, and graphic. After Tyler’s murder, his twin brother, Marvin becomes more emboldened and empowered to use his voice to protest police brutality and help his community.


Jay Coles

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