Heartstopper: Volume One
by Alice Oseman
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, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.
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. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.
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…
In the realms of YA contemporary, Alice Oseman has become an incredibly popular author since the publication of her debut novel, Solitaire, back in 2014. If you know anything about my reading tastes then you’ll know YA contemporary isn’t a genre I reach for very often, but since hearing so many wonderful things about Radio Silence and the Heartstopper graphic novels across the blogosphere, I figured it was time I gave Oseman’s work a try. Luckily for me, my library just happened to have a copy of the first volume of Heartstopper!
I can sum up this graphic novel in one word: cute. It’s such a warm, pure-hearted story, and while it does tackle some serious issues – particularly homophobia and bullying – it’s primarily a very hopeful, gentle graphic novel about a friendship that might be developing into something more.
One of my favourite things about this graphic novel, and a reason I’m much more likely to reach for more of Oseman’s work the next time I get a contemporary craving, is its Britishness. So much YA contemporary, and particularly the YA contemporary that gets shouted about the most by reviewers, is set in the States. I’ve read and enjoyed plenty of them – American high schools kind of fascinate me because they seem so alien to me – but I can’t deny it was so nice to sit down with some British teenagers in a British school and read a story set in a school environment much more similar to my own, because it’s not something I get to experience often when I pick up YA contemporary.
Oseman’s art style is very sweet and it’s clear she’s poured a lot of love into this story; Charlie and Nick’s friendship is lovely, and it was so refreshing to see teenage boys talking about their feelings being normalised, and sexuality beyond heteronormativity being normalised, in a story like this one which I hope plenty of teenagers have access to. This is the kind of graphic novel that should be available in school libraries across the country.
Honestly, there’s not a lot I can say. Is this graphic novel a new favourite? No, not really, but it’s very good at being the story it’s set out to be, and it’s definitely a series I’d like to continue. As much as I don’t tend to read much contemporary, I do think I actually prefer contemporary graphic novels to SFF graphic novels and this was a great one – take from that what you will!