cover image Tyler Johnson Was Here

Tyler Johnson Was Here

Jay Coles. Little, Brown, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-44077-6

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.)