Street Dreams, Tama Wise
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Genre: New Adult, LGBT (G)
Length: 264 pages
***PLEASE NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS***
Before beginning I would like to point out that, as an Australian, I was sorely tempted to fill this review with endless jokes about our cousins across the ditch. Fortunately for the future of Australia-New Zealand relations, this is not the case. At no point do I ever mention sheep or certain varieties of takeaway food, nor do I request certain people from this country pronounce the number that is between 5 and 7.
“Tyson had to remember to breathe. It was all he could do to stop himself from just staring as he stood there. He was all too conscious of everything right now, especially the fact that he was staring at another guy.”
Tyson Rua is 18, and works nights to help support his mother and 8 year old twin brothers. Tyson loves local hip-hop from his home city of Auckland, and passes time on his long commute to work by sketching his world, while being inspired by music.
One clear thing is pressing on the back of Tyson’s mind: the fact that he is gay, and knows it. He finds it a constant struggle to muster up the courage to tell anyone; so far he has not succeeded, even though he desperately wants to tell his best friend, Rawiri. He spots a guy heading home from work one day and instantly develops a crush on him. One moment, on the train, Tyson finally plucks up the courage to talk to this crush, Marc.
This chance meeting leads Tyson into the local hip-hop scene, and he starts hanging with the Dodgee Dozen. Whilst hanging with this crew, Tyson meets Siege: the leader, Iheia: a rapper, and Loot: a tagger. Looking to improve his art skills and impress Marc, Tyson journeys deeper into this world.
Why I Enjoyed Reading This Morsel of New Zealand
Set in New Zealand
You don’t get many books like this at all, and it’s good to see this fine country getting more exposure beyond The Lord of the Rings and the abundance of sheep. Street Dreams is even more specialised in that it is set in a predominately Maori community, with most characters being part of this community. It is good to see.
It Was Enjoyable (‘Nuff Said)
Street Dreams is a book where I find it hard to pinpoint why I enjoyed it. I liked the characters, I liked the plot (mostly) and I liked the world this story is set in. I really found it interesting exploring this world of young adults – roaming the streets, working lousy jobs or being on the dole – and dreaming to escape it all through the hip-hop scene. This is a world of optimism, but at the centre of it all is the bleakness that comes when you can’t realise your dreams.
Hmmmmm…. (A.K.A. What Let It Down)
Street Dreams contains good messages against the abuse of alcohol and the negative effects alcoholic people can have on those around you, including physical abuse and drunk drivers. The book is not consistent, however, when dealing with the use of marijuana.
Personally I hold marijuana use in the same vein as tobacco and alcohol; they are all recreational drugs which, with prolonged use, can have a somewhat equally negative effect on a person’s health. This book, at times, seemed to promote use of marijuana, and it definitely does not highlight the negative effects of using this drug. I do like consistency in books, and the highly contrasting takes on alcohol and marijuana use is highly disappointing. I do understand that, in the Maori community, alcohol abuse is a large, insidious issue, just like it is in other (indigenous) communities. This aside, I believe the difference in attitudes between these drugs is not justified, and I did not enjoy it.
Major spoiler here, because I really need to get out my frustration with the ending of Street Dreams. I’m even going to put it in numbered format, to make it clear and simple what the hell happened:
- Rawiri comes to stay with Tyson because his father is beating him up.
- Tyson’s mother is struck by a drunk driver and is in hospital.
- Tyson goes to work and gets fired.
- Angry and upset Tyson goes home, can’t find Rawiri, takes Rawiri’s gun and plans to rob a garage.
- Is stopped by Ihaia, who then warns him that Siege knows Tyson is gay and is looking around for him.
- Siege finds Tyson and Ihaia. Tyson draws the gun on Siege, threatens him and then punches him. Tyson and Ihaia run away.
- While hiding, Tyson and Ihaia kiss, with Tyson not knowing Ihaia was gay.
- They happily return home to find Rawiri being led out of his house in handcuffs, and Rawiri’s father being carried out on a stretcher.
- Tyson and Ihaia decide to deal with it in the morning.
- They have sex.
Luckily, for the sake of this book, it did resolve everything after these series of events. However, this penultimate scene had so many issues I was literally screaming at the book. Every single thing that could go wrong with Tyson’s life does go wrong, all over a period of two days; points 3 through 10 all occur on the same day. I do get annoyed when everything goes wrong at once. While it can happen in real life it doesn’t do so often, and it just felt like the author was in a rush to get to a climax and finish the book.
What really, really, REALLY annoyed me, however, was that Tyson and Ihaia had sex at the end of all this. Tyson barely knows him, his mother is in hospital, he’s had a violent and upsetting night full of much anger, and his best friend has just been arrested, with Tyson having no idea what’s going on. Perfect time to have sex with an almost complete stranger? I don’t think so.
Frustrations aside, I did like the majority of Street Dreams. The coming out story of a young Maori man is not one that is published every day. The author did do a good job of capturing the thoughts, fears and frustrations of men who, in this super macho culture, can be afraid of coming out. Please read this review in it’s entirety to determine whether you should buy this book. While some will enjoy it, Street Dreams is definitely not for everybody.
“Sounds good to me.”
P.S. That’s not me speaking there, it’s Tyson. Of course he’d love a book where he’s the main character, everyone should.
P.P.S. Despite the note at the beginning I couldn’t resist sneaking a sheep in. Is it obvious?