Compassionate, thoughtful and expressive, this New Zealand import traces a Maori teen's journey through friendships, family, work and the realization that he is gay.
Modest, practical, local-hip-hop–loving Tyson spots a confident, young, white street promoter in a basketball jersey and for the first time feels something he thinks might be love at first sight. Tyson spends his life caring for others: He works nights as a dishwasher to support his mother and two younger brothers, and he looks out for his best mate Rawiri, loyally ignoring the bruises Rawiri sometimes receives at home. Propelled by two friends' encouragement to follow his dreams and his growing interest in the figure he thinks of as “the white homeboy,” Tyson begins to make changes. He calls a gay hotline for support and allows himself to be pulled into a crew of street artists who respect his drawing talents even while their leader spews homophobic bile. Each character is carefully drawn, and the sense of family among the street crew and the racism in the gay community are palpable without the author ever telling readers what to think. The language, though inflected with regional slang and the names of local hip-hop artists, is both accessible and lyrical.
No simple coming-out story, this many-layered effort is gritty, warm and ultimately hopeful. (Fiction. 14 & up)