The following blog post is written by Q42 Producer and resident book blogger, Emily Bridgett. Emily is a 24 year old bookworm and tea enthusiast with a keen interest in Queer Literature. She identifies as a gay woman and has recently graduated from the University of Manchester with a masters degree in Gender, Sexaulity, and Culture.
Hello fellow readers!
Before we delve into the HeartStopper world, here is a list of HeartStopper Vol 1 Content Warnings as stated by Alice Oseman on her site:
- Emotionally abusive relationship
- One incident of a non-consensual kiss
- Brief references to past homophobia, including uses of homophobic slurs
- Brief references to past bullying
Grab yourself a cup of tea.
It’s onto the review!
Do you ever pile up all the books you cannot wait to read and flick through them before you go to bed each night? That’s certainly something I have been doing recently. There’s just so many books I want to read! In particular, the HeartStopper series, with its beautiful pastel coloured book covers, are piled up on my bed just waiting to be read. I’m most definitely guilty of flicking through books to find really interesting moments that will make me even more excited to read them! Of course, it’s a really good way of finding spoilers. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil too many for you. There are simply too many wonderful moments in these books to fit into one review.
Today I’d like to discuss the first book in the HeartStopper series, a series that has been getting a lot of attention recently. Especially since the recent announcement that it is currently in the process of being adapted into a TV series for Netflix. HeartStopper fans, including myself, are very excited about this – very excited indeed. This comforting and heart-warming story of ‘boy meets boy, boys become friends, boys fall in love’ is sure to gain a whole lot more fans when the series eventually comes out.
The beloved HeartStopper is a series of graphic novels that centre around two teenage boys called Nick and Charlie. Charlie struggles with anxiety and has a tendency to worry and overthink. He also has a talent for drumming and has known that he is gay for a while now. Whilst Nick is a kind and soft-hearted rugby player, who’s about to discover his feelings for another boy for the first time. They meet in their school form room at Truham Grammar School for boys and click instantly.I found myself smiling at so many points throughout this book as their friendship and budding romance is so sweet and endearing. Oseman’s illustrations have a lot to do with that. She has a way of shining the spotlight on the smaller moments and this makes it even more joyous to read. Here are a couple of examples:
The picture above shows Charlie surrounded by words that describe what he is thinking and feeling after a social interaction, and it’s a great depiction of what it is like to struggle with social anxiety. Being someone who struggles with social anxiety myself, I found Oseman’s simple yet effective graphics relatable in their depiction of what it feels like to experience this type of anxiety.
Oseman does really well to highlight the importance of consent too, which is evident in the way that Ben continues to kiss Charlie, even when he asks him to stop (p.78-84). After overhearing Charlie’s struggle in the school hallway, Nick intervenes and later comforts Charlie over text and in person. Demonstrating that concern and kindness goes a long way. This is also true for the scenes involving bullying and homophobia.
I love the relationship that Charlie has with his older sister Tori. She is a minor character in the novel but a very impactful one. The way she cares for Charlie is so evident in the way that she takes the time to give him a much-needed hug or to simply check in on how he’s doing. Top-notch sister.
My final point refers to the way that stereotyping plays out in the story. Miss Singh informs Nick’s friends that, “you can’t tell whether people are gay by what they look like. And gay or straight aren’t the only two options. Anyway, it’s very rude to speculate about people’s sexuality.” It’s great to see a teacher taking the opportunity to politely but firmly correct the misinformed views of some of her students, when speculating over Nick’s sexuality. Teachers can have a massively positive influence over their students, and it’s nice to see Miss Singh looking out for them.
To conclude, HeartStopper Vol 1 is a simple yet wonderfully wholesome story about teenage crushes, questioning your sexuality, self-identity, allyship, and the importance of good friendship. With a whole lot of warmth, heart, and courage throughout.
On that cheerful note, I shall now go make myself another cup of tea and read the next book in the series!
HeartStopper started out as a Webcomic! You can read it for FREE here:
Author Alice Oseman is well known for including diverse representation in her work. If you’re interested in reading any of Oseman’s books, here is a link to her website where you can find out more about them: https://www.aliceoseman.com
Some of her characters feature in multiple books. Here’s what Oseman has to say about the order in which you can read them: https://www.aliceoseman.com/in-what-order-do-i-read-your-books