Book Review: Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

‘Heartstopper’ by Alice Oseman is a series of graphic novels. The first volume was published in 2019 and the series remains ongoing. It is now the subject of a live-action adaptation by Netflix.

The graphic novels follow the love story of two boys, Nick and Charlie, who meet when their form tutor groups are changed and they end up sat next to each other. Nick is in his final year of secondary school and Charlie is a year below him. They develop a fast friendship but Charlie, who was outed as gay at school and bullied relentlessly for it, finds himself unwittingly developing a crush on Nick, which, to Charlie’s surprise, Nick reciprocates!

It is a story of firsts, young boys experiencing the ups and downs of their first relationship. First kisses, first holidays to the first ‘I love you’, they are embarking on an exciting journey of adolescence with a found family of fellow LGBTQ+ students from their school and their sister school, which is girls only.

The ‘Heartstopper’ books are a recent addition to the lives of young LGBT+ people’s lives, and something older members of the community cannot understate the value of. To see an ensemble cast of teens, with different interests, and most importantly diverse backgrounds, love each other platonically and romantically, embrace each other and support one another through situations that may look like childhood angst but are incredibly real for young people, or LGBT+ people regardless of age is a glimpse into a life that is achievable in the future if not now. Self acceptance and confidence is imperative and something Oseman doesn’t shy away from.

Although the story is told through graphic novels it does not shy away from evocative themes such as discrimination, mental health issues and explicit depictions of eating disorders. These characters are real and raw. They act impulsively and emotionally. They tease each other and sometimes they go too far. It’s real. Its familiar. Its like being part of their social circle, deeply intimate and private but the truest form of the characters. I loved every moment with them!

Another thing I adored about the books was how normalised it was for the background characters to have their own stories and their own relationships. The rugby coach, has a wife, two of the teachers are dating and daring to take those first steps in their own relationships. It’s refreshing to see older people in same sex relationships too, showing the audience this isn’t some sort of fad for the young. LGBT+ people are everywhere. We always have been.

I absolutely demolished the books, and read them cover to cover in less than three hours, near tears by the end. I cannot wait to read the next volumes of Nick and Charlie’s story in the future. Similarly, I’m excited for the upcoming season of the Netflix adaptation.

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