Invisible Boys (Holden Sheppard, Fremantle Press)
In the coastal town of Geraldton, several young men struggle with the restrictions placed on them by culture, parental expectations and peer pressure. With the threat of violence a constant, and hope for the future proving elusive, Zeke, Charlie and Hammer each try to find their path through the homophobic small-town environment they grew up in to become the men they want to be. The winner of the TAG Hungerford award for an unpublished manuscript, Invisible Boys is a confronting read with such an authentic voice that it feels almost like memoir. Sheppard pulls no punches in this story, challenging expectations and taking the reader on a dark journey through each boy’s life, with only a sliver of light at the end providing hope for a brighter future. This book feels somewhat unmoored from time, with a raw edginess—which is almost overwhelming at times—that brings to mind books like Puberty Blues and the work of Tim Winton. While the publisher suggests a readership of 15+, the profane language and graphic descriptions of sexual content, violence and suicide will give school librarians pause about including it in senior secondary collections, despite its clear thematic merit.
Tehani Croft is a teacher librarian, academic, publisher and literary awards convenor