Music Editor Samantha Andrews reviews the graphic novel Heartstopper, applauding its positive portrayal of LGBTQ+ relationships in teenagers

MA Shakespeare Studies student
Images by Alice Oseman

Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper is a heart-warming romance graphic novel that everyone needs to read at some point. Heartstopper follows Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson as they meet and fall in love. Within this is a beautiful depiction of coming of age and the navigation of identity, sexuality and mental health alongside this. The graphic novel will tug at your heartstrings in the best way possible and is certain to leave you full of joy.  

The four-volume series, with the fifth to be released next year has recently been adapted for TV by Netflix. The show is already one of the most-watched shows on the platform, and sales of the graphic novels are rocketing; it is easy to see why. 

I had always heard people talking about how good Alice Oseman’s writing was and had seen the buzz surrounding Heartstopper in the lead up to its TV adaptation. I picked up the first volume of Heartstopper in the week leading up to the release of the Netflix show. In traditional bookworm fashion, I wanted to read it before I saw the show, but what I ended up doing is finding a new favourite series. I absolutely fell in love from the offset. Reading Nick and Charlie’s relationship unfold is a truly magical experience and I found myself smiling more and more with each page that I turned. 

I picked up the first volume of Heartstopper in the week leading up to the release of the Netflix show […] but what I ended up doing is finding a new favourite series

But it is not just Charlie and Nick’s relationship that makes Heartstopper sing as loudly as it does. The entire group of supporting characters are fleshed out wonderfully and each has their own vibrant personality and relationships that Oseman invites us into. With Tao and Elle, we watch closely as a friends to lovers relationship builds and unfolds, meanwhile Tara and Darcy’s relationship is incredibly mushy and sweet. There are characters so gut-wrenchingly hate-able like Ben and Harry whose manipulative traits and homophobia are written in a grossly realistic way. Each character feels like someone you genuinely would have encountered at your school – and not to forget Nick’s amazingly supportive mom Sarah and his adorable dog Nellie. 

Heartstopper crucially approaches LGBTQ+ relationships in teenagers with sensitivity and positivity. Nick is given the time and space to come to terms with his sexuality on his own grounds. His and Charlie’s relationship faces adversity and difficulty, but Oseman depicts the ability to face and overcome these things with a really wonderful sensitivity. The graphic novels could easily be weighed down when approaching struggles with mental health, but Oseman focuses on healing and the importance of seeking support in a way that is uplifting and resonates really deeply. 

Not to be forgotten either is Oseman’s beautiful visual style. Simply through the facial expressions of characters Oseman breathes so much life into the story – from humour and that feeling of romantic butterflies to sadness and heartbreak. The leaves that scatter across each page and dance through crucial plot points all add to the magic of reading Heartstopper. 

Ultimately, that’s what reading Heartstopper is: a truly unique and special experience. It is beautiful to see such a healthy and genuine portrayal of LGBTQ+ relationships. But it is also just such a beautiful story. It is mushy and romantic and heart-warming and will put the biggest smile on your face. It was a joy to follow each character page by page and I cannot encourage anyone enough to read it. 

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