Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper is an absolutely wonderful coming-of-age romance between British schoolboys. Charlie is a runner and drummer, known to be gay. Nick is the human equivalent of a golden retriever, a rugby player and outgoing everyday guy.
They meet when assigned seating together in class and develop an unexpected friendship as Nick recruits Charlie to the team. Nick also helps Charlie shake off Ben, another rugby player who dates a girl while sneaking around making out with Nick.
There’s a charming insouciance to the art, with panels scattered across the pages and obviously hand lettering meandering through the word balloons. It feels natural and easy to approach. I’m particularly fond of Charlie’s hair, a flyaway mop top, his most distinguishing feature. Overall, the characters are so expressive, so emotional, which suits well the adolescents trying to find their way.
We get to know the boys as they get to know each other, with some adorable sequences of them messing around on the playing field at practice or Nick introducing Charlie to his dog (so cute!). There’s not a lot of drama or major incidents; instead, the scenes are realistic and quietly build the boys’ friendship as they spend time and deepen their affection for each other. It’s a pleasure to read and reread them, just spending time with the characters and noticing more details.
Heartstopper began as a webcomic, before becoming available in the US from Graphix, the biggest kids’ graphic novel publisher. Volume 1 came out this past spring, with Volume 2 available now, and Volume 3 coming early next year.
I mention that because just reading this volume isn’t enough. There’s plenty of content, but I’m eager to see more. Nick has just begun questioning his sexuality, while Charlie thinks he’s fallen for a straight boy. We know better, but it’ll take another book to see how they figure things out. I can’t wait!