Review #5 : Invisible Boys by Holden Shepherd.
Published by Freemantle Press 2019
If you don’t want to know what it’s like to grow up gay, then don’t read this book. But if you would like your eyes opened and your heart touched then Invisible Boys is the novel you need. Writing with visceral prose and raw honesty Holden Shepherd takes us into the world of his invisible boys, forcing us to understand and to care about their lives.
The novel begins when Charlie, teen rocker and defiant bad boy, is found in the closet of a married man (nice pun there, Holden). A meeting with the despairing Matt, confrontations with the football-bully, Hammer and the good Italian boy, Zeke, and the story is off and running, taking us into a world of internet porn, shower-room bullying, Italian weddings and school dances. The romance, sex, awkward conversations and outright confrontations are all compelling reading as Shepherd gives us the ingredients of any teen’s life, complicated and intensified by the difficulty of being gay. But my favourite scene is the four boys on the rooftop, talking and drinking, kissing and egging the people below, invisible to the rest of the town. It’s sweet, funny and a bit aggressive, a perfect summary of the friendship and romance that runs through the book.
Charlie and Matt, Zeke and Hammer, the book gives us four very different people with different stories and whether you like them or hate then there is no doubt you are seeing a fully realised character and hearing a story that rings with truth. Personally, I admired Charlie’s courage and was constantly touched by his sweetness, I loved watching Zeke grow from a nervous geek to a man with integrity and strength and would have gone way to avoid Hammer. Not because he was gay, or because he refused to acknowledge it, but because he was a bit of a dick. And that’s one of the great pleasures of this book, unlike so many modern stories, there’s no narrowing of character to a single issue. Hammer, Zeke, Charlie and Matt have virtues and flaws and though being gay is a vital part of who they are, it’s not all they are.
Invisible Boys is a powerful, honest and brilliantly written novel which deserves all the praise and attention it has received. If you’re collecting a bookshelf of modern YA classics, then Invisible Boys is a must-have addition
For my previous review 'Making Friends with Alice Dyson' click here
Review #4: Making Friends with Alice Dyson by Poppy Nwosu
Published by Wakefield Press
Do you like reading for pleasure? Settling down in the 40-degree heat with a plate of turkey roast, an overworked air conditioner and a book that you know you’re going to enjoy? If the answer is yes, then make sure Making Friends with Alice Dyson in your Christmas stocking.
On the surface this is a traditional YA love story between nerdy good-girl Alice and the schools bad-boy Teddy Taualai. Alice is busy working hard at her schoolwork, Teddy is busy trying to get Alice to notice him, and when a video of them dancing together goes viral it seems that Alice just can’t get rid of him. Add in a drunken party and a best friend who wants to be popular and you have all the elements of classic teen romance.
If Making Friends with Alice Dyson was nothing more than ‘girl meets boy’ it would still be a beautifully written love story but Poppy Nwosu gives us so much more than that. As the title hints this book is as much about friendship as it is about love. As Alice says: ‘It makes me wonder if that’s
all love is, just the same as being friends.’
There’s an earthy realism to Nwosu’s writing that balances the essential sweetness of the story. Images like Teddy Taualai crunching an apple, all sweaty from playing soccer, or the messy aftermath of a drunken party complement the romance to create a book that is not only heart-warming but both solid and sweet, like a well-cooked cinnamon bun.
And I loved how emotionally brave her three main characters were. Teddy is so exuberant, so willing to admit what he feels that it’s no wonder Alice can’t shake him off. And May, her best friend, makes mistakes and admits them. Her lines to Alice after May’s attempted romance are some of my favourite in the book: ‘But I don’t regret liking him…No obviously I regret liking him because he’s an idiot, but I don’t regret that I did like someone.’
Alice talks a lot about how overwhelmed she feels, about how much braver May is than her and yet we see her grow into a girl who will take chances for love. Not the stupid, immature chances that lead to tragedy but the courageous decision to work at a relationship that is worth fixing. And she holds onto her own dream s while she makes places in her heart for her friends. Now that is a heroine worth imitating.
Sweet and solid, real and brave, this is a book worth reading. So, before the year ends get into a bookshop and pick up a copy, you won’t regret it.
Review #2: Twin Spin by Adam Cece.
© Catch Tilly, 2019