You can’t tell whether people are gay by what they look like. And gay or straight aren’t the only options.
*There may be spoilers in the content warning section above the summary. Tread lightly!*
Published: October 2018
Genre: Romance, Graphic Novel
Representation: People of Colour (South Asian, Asian, Multiracial [Volume 2]); LGBTQIA2S+ (Gay, Bisexual, Trans [Volume 2], WLW); Mental Health [Volume 3]
Content Warning: Sexual assault; physically abusive behaviour; toxic relationship; homophobic slurs; mention of bullying; self diminishing; reference to past cutting [Volume 3]; biphobia & homophobia [Volume 3]; eating disorder [Volume 3].
Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?
Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…
— summary from Goodreads
If you haven’t already seen the years-long hype over this series of graphic novels, we’ve got you covered. Heartstopper is an adorably wholesome young adult graphic novel series by the incredible Alice Oseman, chronicling the sweet relationship between Nick and Charlie. Firstly, we totally recommend Oseman’s works for anyone looking for young adult novels featuring lots and lots of queer representation. We are all here for that! And I’m sure we’ll get to reviewing more of her works in the future.
Charlie is an anxious person who has gone through a lot surrounding his identity and the way people have treated him. Nick is a kind-hearted teddy bear of a rugby player who is well-liked. They develop a sweet friendship where feelings are realised and identities are questioned, which in turn blooms into a beautiful and wholesome relationship.
This is one of those graphic novels that is lovely to read over and over again. Throughout the series, we get the introduction of characters from so many different backgrounds, doing their best and discovering themselves through friendship and the inevitable conflicts that come from being a teenager. The characters are so sweet, and the dialogue and storytelling is endearing to the point of teary-eyed smiles every time you read a new chapter. It’s wholesome to a degree that is difficult to find, and while there are hard moments that come in the form of some of the things we mention in our content warnings, it is also unbearably lovely.
The art is also lovely – it is fairly basic in terms of style but it’s so emotive and good at portraying conflict. Oseman uses her white space and frame size well to capture the emotions she’s trying to invoke, and invoke them she does! Considering this is her first endeavour into graphic novels, we are seriously impressed.
We think Heartstopper is a great pick-me-up read. Even with some of the heavier subject matter, everything is dealt with so much kindness and care, and there’s always a sweet encounter and lovely relationship dynamic to bring you a quick reminder of how good life can be with the right people around. No matter the adversary, and no matter how hard things get throughout the series, the characters’ support systems help bring things back around and infuse them with a bit of joy.
We don’t want to say too much more, because truthfully there isn’t much more to say without spoiling it. Let’s just say that Oseman does a great job at making you fall immediately in love with all of these characters. You will laugh, cry, and do a bit of both at the same time. You’ll probably spend most of your time with a full heart, smiling like a maniac.
The author began the series as a passion project, so you can find it all online for free (including the most recent chapters), but we totally recommend supporting the author and showing your love for diverse reads by buying the books if it’s within your means!