Reviewed by Kelly on

5 of 5 stars

In the small rural town of Geraldton in Western Australia, boys are raised on toxic masculinity with a stoic and emotional detachment. Whether you're the alluring and mysterious musician, the overachiever or attractive athlete, your worth is valued by your achievements and success. There is no room for tolerance within the draconian Catholic School community, boys are manipulated and forged by their faith, threatened by authority for daring to push societal boundaries.

Musician Charlie Roth has been ostracised by his friends and community after being caught in a compromising position with a married man, unbeknown to Charlie. Geralton is a small town thriving on intolerance and for Charlie Roth, home offers no respite with his neglectful mother and her layabout boyfriend resorting to insults and verbal abuse of the vulnerable adolescent. Beneath Charlie's lackadaisical facade, is a young man who is still mourning the death of his father and a community determined to label Charlie as less than human.

Zeke Calogero is an overachiever, from a traditional Sicilian family and devout Catholics. Zeke hides his sexuality, identifying as gay and covertly watching gay pornography to relieve tension and suppress feelings he could never discuss with his parents. When he is caught masturbating, his parents insist he is merely curious and that Charlie Roth is responsible for these impure thoughts. Although Zeke doesn't want to disappoint his parents, he also can't rely upon his waning faith which promotes abstinence and that homosexuality is immoral.

Kade Hammersmith is an athlete and the epitome of toxic masculinity, following the path his father blazed and determined to be drafted into the Australian Football League. Young men revere him, young women adore him and with the encouragement of his father, his sexual prowess is only secondary to his sporting career. Kade's life is a facade. Although he appears to be the straight, masculine young man who's sexuality active and applauded for being promiscuous, he finds men attractive and struggles with his sexuality. Kade knows that being gay in his community is seen as being less than male, he's seen what happened to Charlie Roth and surely this is only a phase. Surely.

The brighter you shine on the outside, the darker you burn within.

Three young men, bound by their bigoted and homophobic community and finding solace within one another. Invisible Boys is monumental. Young men who endure in silence, who suffer at the hands of religious zealots and toxic masculinity, pressured to hide their sexuality for fear of being ostracised or labelled as less than. These boys represent our brothers, friends, neighbours and young men without a voice. Young men who are raised to appear void of emotion and anything less is a weakness. Small town prejudice confines young men to silence, often low socioeconomic communities offer no means to escape which can lead to mental illness and thoughts of suicide. Suicide remaining the leading cause of death for young Australians with many more who attempt to end their lives. Invisible Boys will ignite discussion of how toxic masculinity effects young men and how Australia as a community need to stop accepting the boys will be boys mentality.

The narrative is confrontational and incredibly important for young queer men to recognise themselves within the pages, their lives and experiences. It's written with authenticity and sincerity, unflinching and unabashed Australian young adult literature at its finest. Simply brilliant.

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Reading updates

  • Started reading
  • 5 December, 2019: Finished reading
  • 5 December, 2019: Reviewed