Synopsis from Goodreads
In a lot of ways, I find it incredibly hard to review this book because stories like Marvin's, like Tyler's, and like Jay Coles himself are not my reality but it's very much the reality for many, many people in North America. This is a world that I honestly can't even pretend to imagine what it would be like to grow up in, which is why novels like Tyler Johnson Was Here, The Hate U Give, and Dear Martin are so powerful and important. It is terrifying that this is the world that many children and teens are growing up in. This review is me speaking honestly about how I felt regarding the storytelling of Tyler Johnson, but please know that I would NEVER assume to critique or judge the story itself. These are stories that need to be told, read, and shared until everyone has the freedom to walk home at night without fear.
Very Powerful Story About Police Brutality
Every moment where Marvin ran into a police officer was horrifying to read about; it felt like every cop in the city was out to get him and his friends. I couldn't believe how people, KIDS, were being treated horribly simply because of the colour of their skin. It was disgusting. This is something that cannot be written or talking about enough, because we hear about things like this happening in the news all the time. I can only hope that one day hearing about police brutality will be the exception, and not the norm.
Writing was a Bit Light
Although the story itself was powerful, the writing was very surface-level. In very basic terms, there was absolutely no tension in this novel. There were many, many moments when I should've had been holding my breath to find out what happens, but instead I was very much a casual bystander to the events that were unfolding. Comparisons to novels like The Hate U Give will unfortunately happen, but the biggest differences between these two books is that THUG had me gripping each page, worried about what would happen to the characters, but Tyler Johnson felt like many missed opportunities. However, I don't think this is a bad thing -- it just means that this was Coles's first novel and that I can't wait to read more from him and watch his writing grow.
Characters Are Underdeveloped
While it was nice to meet Marvin, Tyler, Faith, etc, all of these characters felt very underdeveloped. None of them jumped off the page or stayed with me after finishing the book; sadly, they were all very forgettable. Marvin came off as two "goody-goody" and naive to really understand what was happening around him, which was surprising considering how often we are told about how rough his school is. Every character we met felt very one-dimensional and there were definitely missed opportunities to develop them further (like, what was the deal with the school's principal?? I don't understand why he'd constantly be bullying one of his academically strong students to give up on his future). Personally, I would have loved to get more background Faith; the ex-girlfriend of the school's biggest gang-banger, there had to be more to her story then we were given.
Stories like this need to continue to be published so that those who do not live with this fear can understand what life is like for those who do. Racism, police brutality, and any number of other injustices are occurring on a daily basis for many, many people and it's incredibly important that everyone understands how wrong it is to it to continue. We should never stop talking or fighting against racism or bigotry in any form, and hopefully one day the way someone looks will not immediately put them in danger because of the stupid thoughts of another.
FINAL RATING: 3/5
Hi, I'm Alexandra! I love reading (largely YA fiction, but sometimes I'll read "adult" books), playing board games, Nutella, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix with my husband.
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