‘Heartstopper Volume 1’
By Alice Oseman
c.2020, Graphix Scholastic
And sparks flew.
Forget the beginning of a new romance; the middle is where the best part is, the boy-meets-boy part where everything’s a first. First hand hold, first hug, first kiss, that’s what you want to see. Sparks. Embers for a flame to come, maybe even some heat. And in “Heartstopper Volume 1” by Alice Oseman, that’s what you get.
Fourteen-year-old Charlie Spring hadn’t meant to come out as gay. It happened and he never really had control of it: one day, nobody knew and then everybody did. He was bullied, of course, and though there were a few guys in his class that he called friends, he never truly knew whom he could trust.
Take, for example, Ben Hope.
Ben was an older boy that Charlie hung around with sometimes, and when he really thought about it, Charlie knew in his heart that Ben was just using him. He was all kissy and stuff when nobody was looking but Charlie knew down deep that Ben would never let anyone see them together. He knew for a fact that Ben even had a girlfriend.
Ben was not forever; Charlie knew that much, and it was discouraging. And then he got paired up with Nick Nelson in First Period class.
Just one grade ahead, Nick was tall and handsome and friendly. He had light hair, an easy smile, and he put Charlie at ease the day they met. Soon, they were talking about things outside of class. Nick got Charlie on the school rugby team. They texted and emailed long after school hours and they became good friends.
And Charlie started to fall in love.
But Nick Nelson was totally straight, everybody knew that, right?
Everybody but Nick: once, he’d had a mad crush on a girl but that was in 7th grade. Now he couldn’t stop thinking about Charlie. He wasn’t sure what that meant, exactly, and it scared him a little. Was Charlie feeling the same way?
While you’re reading “Heartstopper Volume 1” there are two basic sounds that will come from your lips: “Awwwwww” and “Arrrrrrgh!”
The first will escape repeatedly because this is one really sweet book about first love and first realization. It’s gentle and not TMI, and even if you’re well past the new-love stage and in a committed relationship, it’ll remind you of those first where-do-I-put-my-nose kisses. Author-illustrator Alice Oseman tells this boy-meets-boy story with drawings that show the roller-coaster of teenage crushes and the awkwardness of early romance. Through those drawings, she also quietly lets readers know that some people struggle to understand their sexuality and that’s okay. To further the realism, there are bullies in this story, and a boy who almost seems dangerous.
Oh, and that other sound you’ll utter?
It comes at the end with a cliffhanger. Yep, you’ll have to wait for the Happily Ever After. Arrrrrrrgh!
If graphic novels are your favorites, or if you’re ready to fall in love, do it with Nick and Charlie. Made for the romantic soul, “Heartstopper Volume 1” sparks.