When I was faced with the prospect of weeks/months stuck inside my one bedroom apartment, I began stockpiling things to keep me entertained while I waited out the pandemic raging outside. Among my early purchases were several volumes of manga, some games, and print copies of Alice Oseman’s ongoing webcomic series, Heartstopper. I’d been seeing snippets of this series on Tumblr for ages, but I wasn’t quite ready to commit to another ongoing (see: D.N. Angel is the Reason I have Commitment Issues with Ongoing Series). But, with an overabundance of free time on my hand, I figured now was as good a time as any to give the series a try, so I plunked down and ordered not one, but, all three of the available print volumes from Amazon. The series is also available online over on Tapas, but I think there is just something special about holding a physical book in your hands… and I will readily admit that Heartstopper was more than worth the investment!
Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. An LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between – for fans of The Art of Being Normal, Holly Bourne and Love, Simon.
Charlie and Nick are at the same school, but they’ve never met … until one day when they’re 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 Nick is more interested in Charlie than either of them realized.
Heartstopper is about love, friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us.
Once I started reading Heartstopper I could not put this series down, I BLAZED through all three volumes not once, but TWICE in the span of a few hours and I was almost tempted to start reading it online too just to know what happens next… I have consumed my fair share of LGBTQ+ media—particularly that of the boys love persuasion—so I was expecting to see something a bit more… risque. But, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Heartstopper is a wonderfully wholesome romance between two absolutely precious teen boys just trying to find their way through life (and love). It reminds me a lot of Asumiko Nakamura’s Doukyuusei series (which I LOVE) in that it takes us through the sugary sweet awkwardness of first love. Volume one introduces us to Charlie and Nick to very different boys whose worlds collide when they are placed in the same form group.
Charlie is an openly gay teen at an all boys school—I know how cliche this sounds, but bear with me—who prior to the start of the story was the victim of some intense bullying. Because of this, he is quiet and reserved, choosing to associate with a small group of close friends. When we meet him he is in a secret “relationship”—a term I use loosely—with another boy at his school that mostly involves a few make out sessions in stolen corners of the school. It’s clear that Charlie isn’t happy with the arrangement and Oseman goes to great pains to show how much an emotional toll it takes on Charlie. Because of this, when he meets Nick, a popular and friendly Rugby player he is hesitant, but the pair find they get on pretty well and wind up becoming fast friends. Nick is a complete sweetheart—he’s patient and honest and just a big ol’ teddy bear and he has the cutest dog! ♥
Because this is a romance, it’s obvious where there relationship is headed, but, the story doesn’t rush anything, instead taking its time building up the friendship between Charlie and Nick and it is just so sweet! It happens so naturally, one minute they’re strangers, the next they’re visiting each others’s houses. Even when the boys start developing feelings for one another, it doesn’t feel cliche or forced—it just feels like the natural next step for their relationship. Though, while Charlie is openly gay, Nick has up until this point identified as straight, however when he starts developing feelings for Charlie he begins the process of figuring out his own sexuality. We SEE him searching for answers online and agonizing over his own feelings. This is matched by Charlie agonizing over his budding feelings for Nick, who he believes is straight. In any other series, this would be just another played out cliche, but in Heartstopper, the whole situation is just handled incredibly well. Oseman makes it easy to root for Charlie and Nick, because they are just so relatable and honest.
You can’t talk about a graphic novel without mentioning the art, which in this case is just as cute as the rest of the story. Graphic novels have a leg up on more traditional novels, because you don’t have to rely solely on words to tell the story, you can see each character, each scene… down to the last detail. Each panel directs the reader’s focus, whether that be on a specific aspect of a scene or a character’s expression or every, conveying movement, the art is an important of the story. Oseman’s style is much more airy, detailed, but not overly stiff. She plays a lot with panels, sometimes going beyond their borders or cramming speech bubbles into corners, other times her panels are small focusing on a character’s expression. The whole comic feels like something you’d find scribbled in the corner of a school notebook, which lends itself well to the more grounded story Oseman is trying to tell.
Heartstopper is a delight! The first volume sets the foundation for a cute sugary sweet romance between two absolutely wonderful characters. While the story for the most part, pretty lighthearted there are quite a few moments that will definitely tug at your heart strings. The end of the volume is particularly heartbreaking. But, despite the ups and downs both Charlie and Nick face, you genuinely want them to be happy in the end. So, if you’re looking for a wholesome LGBTQ series to pick up, I highly recommend giving Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper a read!
Thank you for reading and supporting Blerdy Otome! Here’s where I turn things over to you all: What are you reading during this extra time at home? 🙂
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