Heartstopper: Volume One
By Alice Oseman
Author’s website: aliceoseman.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Omar
Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?
Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…
Heartstopper starts in January, at the beginning of the winter semester, when the students return from the holidays. Charlie Spring, a year 10 student, gets placed in Hamlet 5 for his study group. The professor greets him and sits him next to the year 11 student, Nicholas “Nick” Nelson. While a little apprehensive at first, fearing that Nick will be like the other year 11, who bullied him last year, Nick just smiles at him and greets him hello.
The following weeks are the same, Nick will greet Charlie with a smile either in their group or when he meets him in the halls. After helping Nick one day when his fountain pen explodes over him, Charlie starts to see Nick as a friend. One day, Nick sees Charlie running during PE and decides to ask him to join the Rugby team as they are missing a player. After some hesitation, Charlie joins the team and ignores his friend’s concerns that Nick is just taking advantage. By the end of the week, Charlie has a handle on Rugby and Nick is ecstatic that Charlie is liking the game.
Their friendship is solidified after practice, when Charlie meets up with a boy named Ben who he was seeing in secret last semester but broke it off with him when Charlie understood that Ben was just using him. In hopes of making Ben understand he doesn’t want anything more with him, Charlie meets up with him to talk. Ben refuses to end their secret relationship and tries to forcefully kiss Charlie, while telling him to stop and push him off of him, Ben is pushed away by another person, Nick.
That night, Nick messages Charlie as he is still concerned about what happened earlier, and for the first time Charlie opens up about his problems with Ben that he didn’t mention to his friends. They hang out in each other’s houses the following weekends, Charlie comes to the conclusion that he has fallen for his straight friend, and Nick grows confused as he notices his own crush on Charlie.
I really liked the comic book Heartstopper, the storyline, the characters, and even the issues that it talks about make a good narrative to follow.
Charlie and Nick make a lovely couple. They are very different from one another but seem to complement each other. In this first volume, we see their friendship start on the first day of school and the following days. We also get to see their first kiss, which doesn’t end as we as expected. Charlie tends to be more anxious, gets stressed easily, and apologizes for things that are not even his fault, while Nick is a tall and beefy happy guy who is a “rugby lad” that goes with the flow and seems to have it all figured out.
In this volume, we get to meet other characters such as Victoria “Tori”, Charlie’s sister, Tao Xu Charlie’s best friend, Ben Hope, the boy whom Charlie thought he was seeing, and other schoolmates who from time-to-time comment on what they see. Tao is hesitant about Charlie and Nick’s new friendship and the crush that he sees in Charlie for Nick, he even finds out from the vine of gossip that Nick has had a crush on a girl named Tara Jones for a while.
While Charlie is already out and he is not bullied anymore, there are still students who will comment about him being gay or things he does. Harry Green seems to be the one that makes snarky comments the most. Nick’s friends don’t seem to mind that Nick is hanging out more with Charlie, but they do notice that Nick has a crush on Charlie even before he himself notices. Internalized homophobia seems to be an issue that comes up in the book, as Ben just wants to be with Charlie on his own terms and denies his existence most of the time.
Another thing that we see is low self-esteem being a big issue, as Charlie doesn’t seem to feel good enough for other people to be with him. He is heartbroken when Tao tells him about the rumor that Nick had feelings for Tara and when Harry forces Tara and Nick to talk at his birthday party. Here we learn about another gay couple, Tara and her girlfriend Darcy.