The Brink

Holden Sheppard

The Brink
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The Brink

Holden Sheppard

A group of school-leavers: free at last, ready to party, expectations high.   

A remote island on the Western Australian coast wasn’t exactly the plan, but they’re not going to let that hold them back.      

Leonardo, geeky, asthmatic, shy and prone to anxiety, has landed with them. He’s terrified-he’s definitely not part of this cool gang. Super high-achiever Kaiya is trying to forget her frustration with her drug-addicted sister as well as dealing with pressure from the popular girls to lose her virginity. Mason, footy jock with the physique to match, is coming to terms with his secret desire for his best mate, Jared. And Jared wants a week off from his relationship with Val so he can have sex with as many girls as possible.     

But the party takes a dangerous turn when Val is drugged and a man is later found dead on the beach. Blame, fear, mistrust, coverups, power plays and dark secrets tear the group apart and expose the deadly tensions beneath the surface. And each teen is forced to confront demons that will lead them either to devastating tragedy or transformative triumph.     

Whoever survives the week will never be the same again.     

The Brink is a raw, powerful novel that pulls no punches in its authentic exploration of masculinity, sexuality, mental health, drug and alcohol use, relationships and sex. Holden Sheppard takes the teenage experience to the next level.

Review

A group of teens is forced to change their plans and move their end-of-year Leavers celebration, setting off a cascade of events that leave two dead and a community shattered. Told from multiple points of view, The Brink finds these teens in a state of flux, in that transitory period between the end of high school and the start of the rest of their lives. We’re introduced to Leonardo (never Leo), an anxious, asthmatic nerd who doesn’t really belong with the rest of the group; Kaiya, who is fighting the pressure to be perfect and make up for her older sister’s mistakes; and Mason, the blokey bloke, the footy god with muscles for days who is trying to hide the fact that he’s in love with his best mate, Jared.

All the teens are fighting their own battles: Jared, the seemingly perfect head boy is a powder keg, just waiting for an excuse to let loose and reject the expectations his father has for him, and Val, his perfect girlfriend, is fighting her own insecurities. When the group ends up at the Brink, an off-the-grid settlement off the WA coast, they’re all looking forward to a week disconnected from the outside world – a week where they can let loose and be whoever they want, before going back to the expectations of the real world.

But a week of nothing but booze and drugs and sex on their own private island isn’t the paradise they’ve imagined it to be, and when one of the locals turns up dead, the teens are shaken and scrambling to find answers.

With his sophomore novel, Sheppard successfully explores the meaning of masculinity; Leonardo, Jared, Mason, and the others all show that there is no one right way to be a man. There’s no one person with the secret to how to be happy and comfortable and truly content in your own skin. The Brink is an ode to self-discovery and self-love; Sheppard’s characters have to push past the expectations placed on them by their families, their friends and society as a whole before they can grow into the people they’re going to become. Without resorting to cliché, Sheppard puts a group of teens on an island and tells them to sink or swim.

For ages 16+.

Jennifer Fraioli is from Readings Emporium

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