Book: “Heartstopper (Vol.1)” by Alice Oseman
Publishing Info: Graphix, May 2020
Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.
Book Description: Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. A sweet and charming coming-of-age story that explores friendship, love, and coming out.
Shy and softhearted Charlie Spring sits next to rugby player Nick Nelson in class one morning. A warm and intimate friendship follows, and that soon develops into something more for Charlie, who doesn’t think he has a chance.
But Nick is struggling with feelings of his own, and as the two grow closer and take on the ups and downs of high school, they come to understand the surprising and delightful ways in which love works.
Review: Sometimes you just need a good romance. While it’s not really my go to genre, I do have a soft spot for a kissing book every once in awhile, and in graphic novel form that’s all the better. Given how things have been going as of late, when I was throwing money at my local indie bookstore I decided to order “Heartstopper (Vol.1)” by Alice Oseman, given that a few of my friends had read it and enjoyed it. I waited for a day where I was stressed out and needed a nice fluffy distraction. And if you too are looking for a nice fluffy distraction, “Heartstopper (Vol.1)” will do you just fine.
“Heartstopper (Vol.1)” is about two teenage boys. The first is Charlie, a shy and introverted 10th year at his school who is out and used to be bullied because of it. The other is Nick, a gregarious and charming rugby player who gets along with all sorts of people. After being seated next to each other in class they strike up a friendship, and then perhaps something more starts to develop. This is a very straightforward story about two boys who are still trying to find themselves, and by finding each other they grow and change and blossom. While there isn’t much in terms of twists or turns or crazy drama or conflict, the quiet pangs of seemingly impossible crushes and the confusing moments of shifting (or perhaps merely expanding) sexuality bring enough relatable angst and joy to the reader that you will still be invested. Charlie and Nick’s friendship is realistic and darling, and seeing Charlie yearn for Nick while thinking he has no chance, and seeing Nick become more and more drawn to Charlie makes it so that you are completely taken in by their tale and will want to see what happens. Both Charlie and Nick are extremely likable, and I loved seeing how they interacted with each other and how their potential romance slowly built up through these interactions. What I found the most satisfying about this story is that while Charlie makes mention of past bullying, and while there are definitely moments of ‘soft’ homophobia from some characters (by no means to I mean not harmful, but more thinking in stereotypes of what a gay person is ‘supposed’ to be), it isn’t the main conflict for Charlie within the narrative. After all, while addressing the oppression that members of the LGBTQIA+ have to face is important, it’s also important not to define their stories by that oppression. So to have Charlie and Nick navigating the highs and lows of a potential romance in very run of the mill ways was refreshing. I also appreciated how Oseman addressed that one’s sexuality can shift and change when you are trying to figure out who you are, as Nick is going through a lot of self discovery. And that can be hard. The story is definitely soft and sweet, and while it does end on something of a cliffhanger you also have hope going into the next volume. Whenever that may be. Soon, I hope!
And finally, I really liked the artwork for this comic. Oseman’s style is very simple, but there are little hints of originality that I found very endearing. Be it sometimes writing out sound effects to have in the panel, or how the words are hand written and typed out letters are reserved for texts and messages between characters, or how body language gets translated into words, there is something very endearing and charming about how Oseman tells her story with her imagery.
“Heartstopper (Vol.1)” is a lovely start to this pleasant story, and I am very eager to see where Charlie and Nick go from here.
Rating 8: Soft and sweet, “Heartstopper (Vol.1)” is a darling romance with lovely characters and a charming coming of age plot line.