Heartstopper, Volume 1 by Alice Oseman, 288 pp, RL: Middle School
Heartstopper, Volume 1
by Alice Oseman
Heartstopper, Volume 1 is a deeply satisfying story that captures the breathless intensity and uncertainty of a crush that takes you right up to the first, leaving you hanging wondering what happens next. Happily, Heartstopper, Volume 2 continues the story (due out November, 2020) with a third and final volume coming in 2021. And, you can read all of Heartstopper and more in webcomic form on Tumblr.
The tagline for Heartstopper is, "Boy meets boy. Boy becomes friends. Boys fall in love." It is as deliciously simple as that , and, like all delicious things, it leaves you wanting more. Heartstopper, Volume 1 introduces readers to Charlie Spring, a fourteen-year-old Year 10 (ninth grade) who came out to his Truham Grammar School peers at the start of the school year. He suffered bullying and homophobia but ultimately discovered a (mostly positive) newfound popularity. When a Spring Term schedule change puts Charlie in a class with Nick Nelson, a star rugby player and Year 11, a surprising friendship sparks. Nick can't take his eyes off Charlie, but Charlie's mind is elsewhere - specifically with Ben. A Year 11, Ben pursued Charlie after he came out and now texts him for make-out sessions, albeit discretely.
The tension of how Nick and Charlie find their way to each other, working through self-doubt, self-questioning, peer pressure and harassment, combined with the thrilling moments of connection and the delightful moments of seeing two characters truly enjoy each other makes Heartstopper, Volume 1 compulsively readable. Oseman's illustration style perfectly captures the frenetic energy and excitement of high school, with the panels on some pages piling up, word bubbles bursting everywhere. Texts on phone screens stand in for word bubbles at times, and images and panels occasionally dissolve into floating leaves, signifying dreamy moments. Where the webcomic is done in black and grayscale, the print version of Heartstopper (see the four image collage) uses a minty green scale that adds depth and energy to the illustrations. Charlie and Nick appear white, with diversity among their friend group and peers.
If you love Nick and Charlie, you can get a glimpse of their future in Oseman's debut YA novel, Solitaire, narrated by Charlie's older sister, Tori (who has a handful of hilarious moments in Heartstopper). Oseman's author's note reveals that she has been drawing their story since she was in high school, "lost and in love with the story of Nick and Charlie." Oseman launched the webcomic Heartstopper in 2016 at the age of twenty-one and today it has over 90,000 followers.