Contemporary Literature · Graphic/Illustrated · Romance · Young Adult

Heartstopper: Volumes Two & Three

The library came through! Cause I wasn’t lying when I said that after reading the first Heartstopper a few weeks ago that I was not ready for the unexpected romantic cliffhanger and needed more immediately. Thankfully, I may not have been alone in my needs/requests, because the second and third volumes just got added to our catalog (a pretty quick turnaround). Yay! Also, since I read them basically back-to-back, I’m going to give you my reviews/thoughts for both of them here at the same time.

Heartstopper: Volume Two by Alice Oseman

This second volume of the Heartstopper graphic novel series starts immediately where the last one left off – the night after the party where Nick and Charlie first kissed. And while Charlie is freaking out that he pushed Nick too far and is going to lose him as a friend, Nick is freaking out because…he super liked kissing Charlie and still isn’t sure what that means (plus, of course, he sort of ran off afterwards and left Charlie alone). The rest of this installation covers, basically, Charlie and Nick’s developing feelings for each other, as each realizes that the other does, in fact, like them back. In addition, it focuses on the major self-discoveries, for Nick, about his sexuality, and Charlie’s deeply wonderful support as he works through it and comes out at his own pace/in his own way.

UGH MY HEART. It fluttered. It fire-worked. It sighed great sighs of contentment. Nick and Charlie are just freaking adorable. And their earnest little touches and looks and the shy kissing that slowly got more and more sure and steady (but remained totally sweet) – I couldn’t get enough. Oseman’s illustrations of those moments are still perfect as well. As I said with the first one, there is so much movement in the panels she draws, and fantastic facial expressions (even as illustrated characters) and it just brings them to life so well. Plus, I loved the small (but many) additional panels that zoom in on their feet and hands, there was just something so intimate about them.  

Moving outside of our main two characters for just a moment, Oseman also addressed a few really difficult realities of friend groups and high school in general. The way she brings attention to being outed before you’re ready, due to rumors and talk, as well as the realizations that some people you thought were your friends just aren’t who you thought they were (or were always exactly who you thought they were, but now you ‘have reasons’ to be upset about it/call it out), is so real. And she lets her characters respond in ways both high road and low road, which is so authentic to high schoolers. 

This second volume was just as cozy and great-big-hug-like as the first. It was a fulfillment of a relationship cliffhanger that was worth the wait. I sped through this in one sitting (I even had to force myself to turn pages a little slower) and am left so full of the aftermath feelings of wonderful and warm unconditional support and young love. Mmmmmmm.

Heartstopper: Volume Three by Alice Oseman

As we know, the last story really focused on Nick, his journey of self-discovery related to his sexuality and coming out. This third graphic novel really brings the growing relationship between Nick and Charlie to the forefront, allowing their feelings towards each other to grow, as they learn (together) to deal with the realities of coming out to friends and classmates and teachers and family over and over again. When they go on a trip to Paris with their school, lots of lessons are learned and steps of trust are taken.  

I’m not sure it needs to be repeated for the third time, but since that’s what reviews are for, let me just reiterate how well done the pacing and illustrative aspects of this story are. Like, I remain in awe of the movement and expressiveness of Oseman’s drawings. And I still cannot get over all the little side panel touches that add gorgeous, heart-squeezing intimacies to so many moments, with focus on the small things – hands touching, foot position, legs tangled together, checks blushing – it’s all just deeply wonderful.

The story in this one gets a bit more intense than in the first two, I felt. The addressing of bullying and homophobia in some of Nick and Charlie’s classmates has always been a central theme, but this time, as they get closer to each other and are more comfortable leaning on one another for support, we get to see how deeply those interactions have affected them, especially Charlie. (On this note, I’d like to include content warnings for self-harm, disordered eating, and specifically biphobia, for this installment.) But in the same way that Charlie was there for Nick’s coming out journey in the last book, Nick is so supportive and careful with Charlie as he confides in Nick about his mental health struggles in this book. It’s so soft and sweet. I also know that this isn’t always the most exciting part of telling a romance, the part after the get together, where the real connections start to be built. But I love it so much anyways – it’s the part that resonates deepest with me, for the parts of my own romantic relationship that hold the most meaning.

Oseman keeps the story moving, even with that “slower” focus for Nick and Charlie, by giving us a lot more of other characters’ stories as well. We learn more about Darcy and Tara and the way they handled coming out about their relationship. And we get to see Tao and Elle take some steps in their relationship as well. Also, there are some great extra moments (of both the forgiving and “tough truths” variety), based on some of the realizations Nick came to about his friends in the last book, as they try to reach back out to him and Charlie. There was also a small side story about the two teachers that are chaperoning the Paris school trip that really resonated deeply for me, as a person who came out much later in life, and because of how quietly sweet it was.

Overall, this graphic series just continues to impress me, with how relatable and real and still deeply comforting it is. High school comes alive in these pages in a way that is so genuine and nostalgic (both the good and the bad). And watching these characters navigate the complexities of adolescence, intensified by additional social pressures and judgements related to their queerness, and still find great joy and happiness and comfort in each other and their supportive friends and family, is the perfect mix of acknowledging and satisfying. I am so full of love for everything in these pages.    

2 thoughts on “Heartstopper: Volumes Two & Three

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