I normally don’t read YA books or gay stories where the main theme is about coming out and self-acceptance. The reason for the latter is because that part of my life is ancient history and there are so many great books in all genres where gay characters simply exist.
But Invisible Boys has become a success here in Australia. And when the three main characters are based on different characteristics of the author, then this is something worth investigating.
The novel is set in Geraldton, Western Australia, and follows three teenage boys dealing with their homosexuality. Author, Holden Sheppard, also grew up in Geraldton.
One of the boys, Charlie, is outed when he hooks up with a married man who claims he and his wife are separated. But when his wife comes home, Charlie knows this is far from the truth. In this small town, it’s Charlie who gets the blame for breaking up a marriage.
He is still in high school along with Hammer, a local football hero trying to lose his virginity to a female, and Zeke, a boy with a soft but determined heart.
For some reason, Zeke is my favourite character. For me, he is the emotional linchpin of the story. The one that reaches out to the other boys just as confused about their sexuality as he is, even if they don’t treat him with the respect he deserves.
There’s a beautiful scene where the boys are joined by Matty, a farmer’s son, and for the first time camaraderie builds. But like all good stories there’s a crescendo that’s referenced throughout the novel. In this one, it’s a wedding, and the finale doesn’t disappoint.
To me, this feels more adult than a YA novel, but it might just show how little I know about the genre. Adults will not feel like they’re being talked down to in the text.
And it’s a lesson to me that coming out stories are still as important as they would have been if they were around when I was a teen in the late 70s and early 80s.
This book is raw, tender, and a genuine page turner. Five stars.