Review: Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman

I've been hearing whispers about YA author Alice Oseman's graphic novel Heartstopper for a while now, mostly words of praise, though I had little idea of what the story was about. Curious, and discovering volumes one and two on sale at QBD I picked them up. What I got with volume one is a heartwarming tale of two seemingly different boys, who are thrown together by circumstance, but choose to become friends and then, maybe ... something more.

Charlie Spring is in year ten at an all boys high school in the UK. He is openly gay and his experiences in coming out the previous year put him in the path of some school bullies. He enjoys music and has a real creative streak. At the beginning of January, he finds himself placed in a new vertical tutoring group.* There, he meets Nick, a boy from the year above him. The pair are seemingly quite different. Nick is a star on the school rugby team, outgoing and very popular. Surprisingly, he and Charlie become close friends straight away. And then, well, Charlie finds himself agonising over his crush on a straight boy, Nick finds himself asking some questions about who he really is. 

This was a sweet story. Some parts of the narrative felt a bit too obvious in places, though it is worth remembering that the story is pitched at a teenage audience, many of whom may be going through similar experiences to Charlie and Nick, or who may be navigating the awkwardness of a first crush, and will be able to identify with the agony of not being sure whether their crush likes them back, even when it is obvious to everyone else around them.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn when I reached the end of the book that this one is a prequel of sorts to Alice Oseman's prose novel Solitare which features Charlie's sister Tori as the main character.

Anyway, this one is a fun, heartwarming read. Recommended.

*Note: Some schools in the UK have adopted a system where students of different grades are placed together in homerooms and tutoring groups, in an effort to stamp out bullying and to encourage students to develop new friendships outside of their usual peer groups. This is known as vertical forms, or vertical tutoring.


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