Okay, so I am very behind the times with this one! I know! This story has been one of the go-to gay YA books for some time and I have only just got round to reading it …
Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper is a graphic novel that had a very humble beginning. Starting life through a Kickstarter campaign, Oseman’s book really does show what can happen with self-publishing if you have a great story.
Subtitled “boy meets boy”, the story of Nick (a great name for a hero …!) and Charlie is a simple, bordering on cliché, romance and coming-of-age tale. Two school boys meet and fall in love. There is a simple backstory for both main characters that, in volume one at least, doesn’t feel fully explored.
Two boys, one in year 10 and one in year 11 of school, are placed together and, when the rugby team needs a new player, Nick suggests Charlie. This starts the path to a close friendship and then to a relationship. The face that Nick can help with Charlie’s problematic friend, Ben, is also a winner.
Yet while Oseman’s tale might be simplistic, it does some things very well. For instance, dealing with and overcoming homophobia as a teenager can be daunting but the characters deal with this well and it is very believable (both the positive and negative attitudes).
I could easily overlook the simplistic story for one simple reason: this story is so accessible.
Section 28, as I have often spoken about and written about, prevented me from accessing this type of story. This is exactly the sort of tale that would have opened my eyes much earlier on and it’s wonderful to see such an accessible and reachable story making such an impact.
That’s, I feel, the point of this book. Afterall, it’s not really for me: it’s for those who are coming of age now. They need this story. They need to know that it is okay.
This was one of the first times I’d read a graphic novel. It’s not that I have anything against graphic novels, I just never have read one! However, Alice Oseman’s storytelling and artwork have convinced me to invest more in the genre. I look forward to reading part two soon.
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Nick (he/him) is an editor and proofreader, specialising in LGBTQ+ writing. He is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and a member of PEN, the Professional Editors Network.
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