Street Dreams – Tama Wise

Synopsis From Goodreads. 
Tyson Rua has more than his fair share of problems growing up in South Auckland. Working a night job to support his mother and helping bring up his two younger brothers is just the half of it. His best friend Rawiri is falling afoul of a broken home, and now Tyson’s fallen in love at first sight.
Only thing is, it’s another guy.
Living life on the sidelines of the local hip-hop scene, Tyson finds that to succeed in becoming a local graffiti artist or in getting the man of his dreams, he’s going to have to get a whole lot more involved. And that means more problems. The least of which is the leader of the local rap crew he’s found himself running with. Love, life, and hip-hop never do things by half.

“There had to be something to take the taste off life.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Sounds good to me too, Tyson.

High Points.
Boys, boys, boys! Seriously, there are two females in this book and it’s brilliant. I always forget how annoying YA girls are. But yeah… Tyson, Marc, Rawiri, Ihaia…. All of them . As a city girl myself, the urban setting was greatly appreciated. Auckland slang (Although I had to admit that I still don’t understand how the word ‘bro’ can be pronounced as ‘bru’… thanks to the lovely Trinity who tried to explain it to me in vain). Graffiti. Break dancing. Rap battles. Sexuality. Hot chocolate. Help lines. Train tracks. Best friends. Abs (no, seriously. Boom.) Dreams. Black books. Basketball jerseys. Basically I could have saved myself a lot of typing and gushing by saying that all of my high points could be summed up in one sentence: This book is completely refreshing, well-crafted and unique in its exploration of race, sexuality and friendship.

Low Points.
Eh… I could have really done without one bit towards the end. It seemed extremely rushed and completely random, especially because we weren’t really told much about the character in question and… eh. It wasn’t as if it was bad but I just think that with everything else going on, we didn’t really need it.
Also, completely randomly, every single character in this book was at one point described as “staunch”.
I actually got to the point where I started to believe that I had been thinking it meant something completely different my entire life!
I know it’s not really a low point, but you know when you’re reading something and you keep noticing a certain thing and then you notice you’re noticing it and then it just gets ridiculous because all you can see is that word?!
Just me then.

Why aren’t all heroes like Tyson?
I don’t think I’d be cool enough to hang out with Tyson and his friends but I like to think I could watch him and his friends from afar and convince myself that I was part of their group and listen to their jokes and pretend I was one of them… like a stalker we would meet up for hot chocolate every now and again and I would ask him obnoxious questions like ‘Can I see your drawings?’ and ‘So, could you introduce me to Marc?’ and ‘Am I allowed to come over to your flat and be your best friend?’ and he’d tolerate me because I was quirky and British and every hip hop star wants a quirky British best friend, right?
….. Or, you know.
I haven’t really thought about it too much.
Mr Wise did an absolutely stellar job in creating a character that was not only vulnerable and conflicted (read: Not whingey. Take note, certain authors. Characters can have problems without being insufferable and over dramatic), but realistic and normal. This book may have a setting which many readers will not really relate to but the emotions and insecurities that Tyson feels are truly universal.
What I loved most about Tyson, and what made him really refreshing, was the fact that he made himself do the things that he knew was going to scare him. Whether it was talking to the guy he’d seen on the train or coming to terms with his sexuality and actually telling those closest to him that he was gay. It was like he closed his eyes and just jumped, and if it backfired (which it sometimes did), he picked himself up, put his headphones on and carried on.
I kind of wish that this story had been told in first person because I would have loved to have gotten a more in depth view of what Tyson was thinking, but Wise did a fine job regardless.

Best friend.
Rawiri…. Gah. I don’t even know what K1 is but I’d watch it with you.

Love Interest.
I have to say, because I am awesome and a hopeless romantic, I did have my suspicions as to how this was going to end up.
But boy, oh boy, am I glad it did!
What I loved about the love interest(s) was that they were really subtle and they never took away from the fact that this was Tyson’s story and it was his battle with his own emotions and he survived because of his own strength.
Sorry for the vagueness but it’s best not to know.
I sometimes feel that in books where the lovers are the same sex they always place so much unnecessary emphasis on the fact that omgomg they’re the same gender therefore the relationship must be rife with ANGST and DRAMA and OBSTACLES.
But here, we get two people who want to be together because they truly like each other and they just happen to be both boys.

What I will say is this…. Tyson is fearless when he knows what he wants!
He’d make an excellent wing man.

Theme Tune.
I know this is probably going to come as a shock to you guys but hip hop will never be the topic I choose when I go on Mastermind.
Especially not Auckland hip-hop.
And as much as I’d love to be all like “Yeah, yeah, here’s my theme tune… what was that? You’ve never heard of them? Wow. Where have you been? Oh… they’re amazing. I’ve liked them for aaaaages because I’m so cool and original”…. I won’t.
So, here’s my theme tune.

But don’t fret because I absolutely love finding out new bands and my taste in music is so eclectic, so I’ve been making a note of all the bands that Mr Wise mentioned that Tyson was listening to (and no, not just so if I ever meet Marc or Ihaia I could have more to say to them than “Ghuggguhhhh”)… you never know, you might be getting more urban theme tunes in the future.

Angst Level.
8/10. I don’t really want to go into this too much but Mr Wise certainly knows how to handle the harrowing situation with tact and without relying on melodrama.

Recommended For.
People who are looking for a brilliant contemporary YA that isn’t set in either England, America or Australia. People who love the city. People who love music. People who love graffiti. People who measure journeys on public transport by how many songs they’ve listened to. People who don’t see what’s in front of them until it’s kissing them. People who like hot chocolate. People who resist the urge to tsk and/or yell “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, GET A BELT!” when they see a boy with pants practically around their ankles so you get a full view of their under crackers. Staunch people.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publishers.

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