Book reviews

Heartstopper (Volumes 1 to 4) by Alice Oseman

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Okay.. This will not be a long review, and we are venturing on a comic novel series–a very good one at that–by author Alice Oseman. If you haven’t heard of her or any of her works, now would be a good time to start moving those fingers and type her name on your best bud, Google. This author is gifted, and I am an instant fan.

After the six-book series I’ve just recently finished, I didn’t think I could immediately move on to a new novel, but with the Heartstopper series I was proven wrong. It’s admittedly a lot easier to finish a comic novel because there’s a visual to be consumed, and it’s an entirely different experience once you have concrete images of the scenes in front of you compared to simply using your imagination as your read through the words. Nevertheless, the imagery remains limited as the comics is in black & white, but since the visual is already there, you just have to focus on the characters, their dialogues, and the story. Not that you don’t have to use your imagination for this kind of read–I don’t mean that at all, it’s actually more about how you take that image presented by the author and make it alive in your mind as you go through the story.

Charlie Spring is an openly-gay Year 10 student. He’s good at math, plays the drums, is a doting brother–on the overall, a very likeable person. But Charlie coming out as gay was not immediately accepted by his peers. In fact, he was a victim of severe bullying which led to his declining mental health. Even the beginning of the story shows us Charlie being used by another boy, Ben, as a romantic fling–always to be a secret and a third-party to a main relationship.

Charlie then meets Nick Nelson–a Year 11 student assigned in the same form. As days passed, the two become friends and Nick invites Charlie to join the school’s rugby team. There’s an obvious attraction between the two, though Nick has always identified himself as straight–even liking a girl, Tara Jones, for years when he was younger. Charlie, on the other hand, is developing a crush, despite knowing about Nick’s sexuality. It’s a fatal attraction, to say the least.

As the two spend more time together as friends, it is becoming clearer to Charlie that he likes Nick, romantically not platonically. It’s a feeling he cannot indulge though because Nick would never consider dating a boy, more so, him. Unbeknownst to Charlie, Nick is starting to feel confused about his identity. He likes Charlie as a friend, that is certain. But why does he think of hugging and kissing him, too? Thus begins Nick’s quest to clarify and confirm who he really is.

Nick goes through his own coming out story with the help and support of Charlie and his friends–which would later on become their friends. It was not an easy journey because people around them remain judgmental, disapproving, and worst of all, homophobic. Charlie, by all means, does not want Nick to go through the hell he’s been through when he was outed a year ago. So, they take measured steps in their relationship, maneuvering through family, school, friends, and dating.

There are other aspects of their story worth mentioning as well, like the friendship they’ve built with friends who are accepting of who they are. It’s not only straight, gay, and lesbian that are included in the group, but also a transgender–Elle. People of different color, race, shapes, and sizes also make appearances in this comic series. Really, for this alone, it’s a must-read.

I give this book 4.5 stars. Aside from the main story between Nick and Charlie, there are other arcs for the different characters as well. It also ventures into mental health problems, which I’m assuming will be continued in the next series so I won’t talk a lot about it here. But shedding light on such important issues experienced by people, young and old, is something we should see more often in mainstream novels. Not only will it reach more people and bring awareness, but hopefully, it will urge us to provide support and assistance to whoever needs it in our lives.

So, that’s it. At least, for now. There are also novels created around some of these characters, still by author Alice Oseman. I’ll try looking into those as well.

Art by Alice Oseman, from an article by Peter White (2021) published on Deadline https://deadline.com/2021/01/hearstopper-netflix-alice-oseman-order-euros-lyn-1234676286/

I’ve always loved comic series. Having encountered this masterpiece by author Alice Oseman just reminded me how much I used to binge read on these. I can’t wait for the final volume to be released next year!

P.S.: The article link above says there are plans to make this into a Netflix series. The details are still murky, but I’m sincerely hoping it’s true.

  • Title: Heartstopper (Volumes 1 to 4)
  • Author: Alice Oseman
  • Year published: 2018 (#1), 2019 (#2), 2020 (#3), 2021 (#4)
  • Publisher: Self-published
  • Total number of pages: 278 (#1), 320 (#2), 384 (#3), 353 (#4)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-444-95138-7 (#1), 978-1-444-95140-0 (#2), 978-1-444-95277-3 (#3), 978-1-444-95279-7 (#4)

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