Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard: impossible to put down

invisible boys holden sheppard

Charlie, Hammer & Zeke are the invisible boys. As queer people, we’ve all been invisible boys at one stage in our lives. Hiding who we are for fear of that eventual fallout when we are no longer safe, hidden from society’s judgement. But for these three boys, their invisible lives are made harder by their circumstance. When growing up in regional Western Australia, being gay just isn’t a ‘thing’. Author Holden Sheppard summarises the stark reality of their existence in the books opening lines.

‘There are two ways out of this poxy shithole of a town: you leave in a blaze of glory and never look back, or you die. I don’t want to die.’

Lonely and looking for love, punk rocker Charlie trawls the depths of his ‘dating’ apps to while away the days in the dust. Life trudges along; his secret carried in his pocket until a hook up gone wrong changes his life. Being discovered in bed with a married man is a recipe for disaster in a small town. Before he knows it, Charlie’s life turns upside down. Everyone knows.

Hammer is a bloke

Hammer is a bloke. A manly man. Hammer can get any chick he wants and he knows it. However, bubbling below the surface, Hammer knows he’s after something different. He knows he can be someone different, but he doesn’t want to be.

Blokes don’t have these thoughts. They f___ chicks and play footy.

Zeke is mild, he’s timid,  and he’s also invisible. Zeke knows this isn’t his life, he knows there’s something out there, a different life to lead. Suffocated by the pressure of his family, and the life they want him to lead, Zeke may never leave and it’s terrifying.

As events slowly unfold, the lives of these invisible boys begin to intersect and overlap. Once strangers, this unlikely group begin to collectively grapple with their identities together. Linked through chance and circumstance they need to find a way forward and a way out of this town.

Real and raw

Real and raw, their stories are etched in the red dirt; their experiences universal. Written from personal experience, Holden Sheppard is telling his part of his story. Although not a memoir, Invisible Boys is part of his history. Each of the three boys making up parts of his own life and his own stories; creating a beautiful and powerful novel.

The ending is as harrowing as it is hopeful; a realistic snapshot of rural life.

It could be thirty years ago or today, but the story rings true for so many queer youth in regional communities.

Invisible Boys is as impossible to put down as it is to forget.

Invisible Boys published by Freemantle Press.

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