You can breeze through a single volume or two of ‘Heartstopper’ by Alice Oseman in a day. There are four volumes in this graphic novel series that is cute and heartwarming but also discusses some important issues like bullying, abuse, and homophobia. I’m recommending it this week since it might be just the right kind of book to get into during Dashain. It doesn’t require a lot of commitment or time but the story will enthrall you and you won’t be able to get it out of your head.
The central characters of Heartstopper, Nick and Charlie, first appeared in Oseman’s debut YA novel, ‘Solitaire’. Charlie is the younger brother of the narrator, Tori, and Nick is his doting boyfriend. Though they were side characters in the book, Oseman apparently was very interested in telling their stories. And that’s how the idea for the graphic novel came about. Heartstopper began as a web comic and much of it is largely available online too. People have been drawn to the series because of its great LGBTIQA+ representation, the romance and the art as well. The art, however, is considerably better from the second book onwards.
In Heartstopper (Volume One) we are introduced to Nick Nelson and Charlie Spring. We see them meet at a British all-boys grammar school and fall in love in what is a beautiful coming of age novel. Charlie is an overthinker and high-strung. Nick is cheerful and soft-hearted. The two make a great pair as they balance each other out. Friendship between them is instantaneous and it’s wonderful to watch them discover each other and themselves in the process.
I picked up this volume because I wanted to watch the Netflix show. All the BookTubers I follow have been raving about both the books and the show for so long now. And for good reason. Heartstopper deals with same-sex relationships in teenagers with a lot of sensitivity and positivity. It also talks about mental health issues in a way that doesn’t invalidate the experience of those suffering from anxiety or depression. Oseman focuses on the importance of seeking support and that makes the story an uplifting read.
I have to admit that Heartstopper might seem a little childish for those who are well in their thirties like me. But it’s an essential representation of queer relationships. I wish I had books like these while growing up. I’m so jealous of youngsters today who have such good stories to help them make sense of the world and what they might not necessarily understand.
Three and half stars
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Pages: 263, Paperback