Tyler Johnson Was Here
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.
Ages: 14 and up