A Blog of Love and Growth

I fell head over heels for Nick and Charlie when I devoured Alice Oseman’s Solitaire back in 2019. The novel had it all, but these two characters stole my heart. And it seems I’m not the only one, as the popularity of Heartstopper—the graphic novel spin-off featuring Charlie and Nick—has skyrocketed. It’s amazing to see Alice Oseman’s books gaining wide acclaim in the US. It wasn’t always like this, though. When I first discovered their books, only Solitaire and Radio Silence were available here. I had to hunt down I Was Born for This and Loveless from overseas. The novellas like Nick and Charlie and This Winter were on my reading list, but I hesitated due to the hassle of international shipping for shorter reads. Luckily, with Nick and Charlie gaining immense popularity and making waves on Netflix, I finally got my hands on Nick and Charlie at my local Barnes and Noble. Shortly after, I devoured The Heartstopper Yearbook from the library. Today, I want to review these two short but delightful additions to the Heartstopper universe.

A Heartwarming Love Story

Nick and Charlie is a charming and compact tale that takes place during the summer before Nick heads off to university. It’s a sweet and slightly fan-fiction-like story that showcases the romance between these two lovable characters. Similar to other short vignettes like Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky, Maggie Stiefvater’s Opal, or Becky Albertalli’s Love, Creekwood, Nick and Charlie offers a glimpse into the lives of a queer couple from a larger narrative. The novella is sprinkled with adorable illustrations that perfectly capture the essence of the story. While it primarily focuses on Nick and Charlie, it also includes brief appearances from beloved characters like Tori, Aled, Tao, and Elle, which will surely satisfy readers who have been following the entire series. For fans of Solitaire and Radio Silence, it feels like a spin-off that caters more to those who have read the novels. Tori and Aled, who hold a special place in our hearts, have less prominence in the graphic novels, but their presence in Nick and Charlie is a heartfelt nod to the original stories.

Love Can Weather the Storms

One of the reasons I was drawn to Nick and Charlie’s romance was the portrayal of an enduring, loving relationship in the face of severe mental health challenges and self-loathing. In a world where we often hear the refrain that no one will love us until we love ourselves, it was refreshing to witness a romantic relationship that defied that notion. In Solitaire, Charlie battles with crippling anorexia, has been institutionalized for mental health reasons, and has even engaged in self-harm. Yet, Nick’s love for Charlie remains steadfast throughout. Nick supports him, alongside the ever-wonderful Tori, and helps him on his path to recovery. The love between Nick and Charlie isn’t built on superficial adoration; it’s grounded in their commitment to one another and their willingness to be there during the darkest moments. That’s why they are a couple that gives us hope—they have weathered storms together and continue to work on their relationship. While Nick and Charlie is undeniably sweet, it has a sanitization that, for me, pales in comparison to the raw and unfiltered portrayal of love found in Solitaire.

The Heartstopper Yearbook: A Visual Delight

The Heartstopper Yearbook can be aptly described as an art book for Heartstopper enthusiasts. Filled with character profiles, drawing guides, additional side character comics, and a look back at Alice Oseman’s artistic growth over the years, it’s a treat for fans. One aspect that caught my attention was the comparison between the original panels from Heartstopper’s webcomic days and the refined versions found in the published volumes. It’s fascinating to witness the evolution and growth of an artist’s style. The book also contains captivating sketches that previously remained unseen. As a fan of Alice Oseman’s artistry, I follow both their official Instagram and the art-specific account (@aliceosemanart). The little sketches featured in The Heartstopper Yearbook are imbued with joy and radiate a nerdy, cute, and queer essence. They truly capture the essence of the characters we’ve come to adore. Although there isn’t a significant amount of new material in the yearbook, it’s definitely worth a read for die-hard Heartstopper fans. It offers a glimpse into the creative process behind the series and provides a satisfying dose of artistic inspiration.

In anticipation of the US release of Heartstopper, scheduled for May 2nd, I can’t help but wonder what will happen when fans finally discover the origins of their favorite lovebirds. I hope that Solitaire receives the attention and love it deserves. While Heartstopper has rightfully earned its reputation as a sweet and heartwarming queer teen romance, I also hope there’s room in fans’ hearts for a narrative that delves into messier, grittier, yet more authentic territory. The Heartstopper Yearbook adds an extra layer of enjoyment for fans, although it isn’t essential reading. Nevertheless, who doesn’t appreciate a little something extra when it comes to their favorite things? If you’re curious to explore more of Alice Oseman’s work, feel free to check out my blog, where I’ve shared reviews on their various novels and comics.