Monday, July 27, 2009

Male Monday: Tyrell

Tyrell by Coe Booth

Rating: 3/5

You can read a summary of the book here

I.Q. "I can tell he scared, but he need to get over that. He don't say nothin'. He just grab his sneaker off the floor and go back to the bathroom. A couple seconds later I hear him banging his sneaker 'round like he trying to kill Godzilla or somethin. Boy can get the job done when he wanna." -Tyrell

This book really didn't do much for me. That quote isn't even incredible. Tyrell didn't make me laugh or cry. It didn't inspire me. A huge part of the problem was all the sexual references. As soon as you get to the 3rd page, the author starts talking about Tyrell's girlfriend giving him a blow job. And it doesn't stop there. In every chapter there's some kind of sexual reference. There's also a lot of profanity, which I don't mind as much, but if you don't like reading profanity or reading about sex, I recommend that you don't read this book.

However, Tyrell is a very believable character. He seems real. But this book's setting and characters were depressing. The mother was awful, she was lazy and in no hurry to get a job, even though they are leaving in a cockroach infested motel while they wait to be put in an apartment given to them by an emergency assistance program for homeless people. The father seemed semi-decent, except of course when he was smacking his wife and going to jail. The father did get his family out of the projects, but at what means? He's been in jail three times, when the book starts, it's the father's third stint in jail. I suppose it's good writing on the author's part, to make you really despise these characters and sympathize with Tyrell because of what he has to deal with on the part of his parents. Also when Tyrell talks about how the family's public defender didn't seem to care about his father's plight, I felt bad and knew that to be true. Public defenders are so overworked, but they should still devote as much of their time as they can to their client.

I wish that Tyrell hadn't complained so much about having to take care of his little brother. I would hate to have to watch and feed my little siblings all the time, but I would do it. Because blood is thicker than water and you must take care of your own. Troy (Tyrell's little brother) sounds adorably cute. Also, I don't see why Tyrell had to drop out of school and why he never got a job. Too many black people (males especially) drop out of school, this needs to stop. I would have liked to see Tyrell stay in school.

I've never lived in a homeless shelter or the projects, so I certainly am not going to criticize the author for not being authentic. I can't judge on that, because I don't know what it's like or what the people are like. I'm sure there are parents like Tyrell's out there, as well as people like his friend Cal, his girlfriend, Novisha and Jasmine, as well as all the other characters. I just wish that the book had been a bit more positive, with less sex (and profanity). My favorite characters were Patrick (he was a good friend to Tyrell, always there) and Regg (who is a friend of Tyrell's father and looks out for both of them). A sequel is due out sometime in the future and hopefully that book will be better.

You can also read Zetta Elliot's review of the book here

I wouldn't really recommend this book, but if you like urban or street lit, try it and see. Let me know what you think.


  1. Hey, Miss A--thanks for such a thorough, thoughtful review of a difficult book...when I hear librarians say they can't keep this book on the shelf, I wonder it b/c of the sex & profanity, that "raw" kind of quality? It makes me think of gangsta rap, and its defenders who claim they're just "keepin' it real." Do you expect a novel to do more than just reflect reality? Uplift is an outdated notion, but I think readers want HOPE! Would love you know what you think of Sapphire's novel PUSH, which is now a film (Precious). Another reviewer warned me to stay away from Kendra, but I might give Booth's latest novel a try...

  2. I'm going to try Kendra, because I've read mixed reviews of it, so I feel like I should give it a try. PUSH is also on my tbr pile. I think Tyrell should be on the shelves. Some people may really like this book. Sometimes, I do expect a novel to do more than just reflect reality.

  3. I haven't read Tyrell but absolutely loved Kendra (brought me :thisclose: to tears at one point) so I'll be interested to see what you think of it.

  4. I really loved both TYRELL and KENDRA. I think Coe is just a fabulous writer.

  5. I'm eager to give Kendra a try!


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