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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.


The Brink has garnered the following accolades:

  • Winner, 2023 Indie Book Awards YA Book of the Year

  • Shortlisted, 2023 NSW Premier's Literary Awards (Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature)

  • Shortlisted, 2023 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs)

  • Shortlisted, 2023 Queensland Writers' Centre Adaptable program

  • Shortlisted, 2023 Australian Book Design Awards (Best Designed Young Adult Book Cover)

  • Top 20 Books of 2022, The West Australian

  • YA Book of the Month (Sep 2022), Dymocks 

THE BRINK - Updated cover with stickers Mar 2023.jpg

Cover image of The Brink

Purchase The Brink



‘A ride you’ll never forget. I loved, loved, loved The Brink.’

Scot Gardner

‘Raw, exhilarating and emotionally charged, an absolute must read!’

Gary Lonesborough

‘A vivid, thrilling, edge-of-your-seat read. These characters are teetering at the very brink of who they are and who they could be.’

Claire Christian

’Sheppard dismantles and interrogates stereotypes of masculinity and sexuality, showing a great generosity to his characters…[His] writing is gripping and authentic, and The Brink acknowledges and amplifies the real challenges that face young people as they step into adulthood.’

Bec Kavanagh, Books + Publishing

‘The Brink is an explosive story about friendship, love, grief, and trauma. Holden Sheppard brings his uniquely gritty voice to a novel that is part coming-of-age, part thriller, and part social commentary. The result is dark, gripping, and utterly compelling, moving at breakneck speed from the very first page. And beneath its hormone-fuelled exterior, the book is a nuanced deep-dive into sexuality and masculinity, and the sometimes perilous intersection between the two. Sheppard is a fearless writer, and The Brink is testament to that. I absolutely tore through this book. I could not put it down.’

Tobias Madden

‘Wild and questioning, tender and fearless, The Brink is filled with characters who, due to their expertly rendered flaws, will break your heart. The novel is a rallying cry to encourage people—young people especially—to be themselves by following whatever path makes them feel most alive; it opens up such space for self-expression that it feels as though Holden Sheppard has created an entirely new universe. His voice is utterly unique and a great, roaring breath of fresh air.’

Nigel Featherstone

‘Sheppard successfully explores the meaning of masculinity…The Brink is an ode to self-discovery and self-love.’


‘The Brink succeeds in establishing Sheppard as a young writer with huge potential in the Australian literary scene…It is frank, fresh and unapologetic …There is so much to admire about this novel—the plotting and structure are impeccable, the tropes run thick and fast. All this is underpinned by beautifully drawn characters.’

Newtown Review of Books

‘Wow! Wow, wow! Sheppard’s latest upper YA novel (but seriously, adults would love it too) has achieved so much! It’s a captivating, true to life story of a group of teenagers on a schoolies (or leavers) trip; it’s a compelling commentary on Aussie masculinity and queer identity; it’s a murder mystery and Lord of the Flies and Survivor - it’s just a really good book.’

Better Read Kids

‘Sheppard doesn’t shy away from depicting his characters’ bad behaviour…while also representing their struggles with frankness and considerable empathy.’

West Australian

‘Sheppard has absolutely nailed this story…This book is totally immersive, the characters so alive and throbbing and real that you’ll feel yourself invested in their arcs from their first chapters… A totally brilliant read.’

AU Review

‘Thoroughly gripping.’


‘Sheppard doesn’t shy away from the uglier bits of beings a teenager, and doesn’t provide a pat, didactic solution, either…The exploration of masculinity and sexuality in The Brink is nuanced and subtle. I’d recommend it to anyone who has ever been, loved, or raised a teenage boy.’

Canberra Times

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