Heartstopper

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Alice Oseman
Genres: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, LGBTQIA+
Pub. Date: Feb. 2019 (read Apr. 2022)

Heartstopper has been on my TBR for literally years, so the new TV show was what I needed to finally read it – that and I was able to get all 4 volumes at once from my local library. I read Radio Silence a few years ago and really liked it, so I knew I would like this, especially based on all the hype.

I admit, it did take me a little bit to warm up to the story. I wasn’t immediately sold on the artwork or the characters because I felt like not a lot happened in the first volume, but the story very quickly grew on me in subsequent volumes. I wrote part of this review before watching the show, but decided to hold off on posting it until I’d seen it, and I’m so glad I did, because I am now 100% obsessed and invested in this series!

I like that Oseman addresses issues which a lot of teens struggle with – not just in terms of figuring out your sexuality and coming out to your friends and family, but also in regards to mental health. The first 3 volumes are extremely feel good. It’s what makes the series and the show such a triumph. We know that Charlie had a very hard time coming out and we are repeatedly subjected to homophobic characters, bullies, and micro-aggressions, but at its core, this story is a joyous celebration of queer love.

It’s filled with a diverse cast of characters and for every bully, there are multiple loving and supportive characters. Many people have very difficult experiences with coming out and I feel like there’s already a lot of trauma porn about those experiences, so I appreciated Heartstopper for its lighthearted approach, that coming out is also something to be celebrated and doesn’t always have to be a negative experience. Nick still struggles with identity, but I liked that his experience contrasted to Charlie’s and that isn’t it beautiful to have allies and safe spaces in which to open up about who you really are.

For this reason, Nick really wormed his way into my heart, especially thanks to Kit Connor’s portrayal in the TV series, which I thought was phenomenal (all the performances were excellent, but I particularly loved Kit’s). He’s a very soft character, unsure of himself in some ways, and very sure of himself in others. Mostly I just loved his self-awareness, which I think is even more pronounced in the show and I liked the subtlety in how Kit portrayed Nick’s internal conflicts. His fear that he’s treating Charlie the same way as Ben, when in reality he’s just taking the time he needs to figure out his own identity.

Why I think this series and show is getting such universal approval comes down to how centered in reality it is. These kids act like proper teenagers and I appreciate the show so much for deciding to cast actual teens in all their awkwardness. So many depictions of high school settings are so overly dramatized and sexualized, I felt very grounded by this depiction of high school, which is what makes it so relatable to any individual, queer or not. I also have to acknowledge that my initial comment about how not a lot happens in the first volume is actually part of what makes the story so lovable.

We get three whole volumes just about coming out, identity, and self discovery. Coming out is not just a one-time thing, it’s something gay people have to do over and over again. Likewise, identity and self discovery are an ongoing process, and the more I think about it, the more I appreciate that Oseman dedicates the time and space to this exploration. For straight people, learning that someone is gay is a one-time thing, you adjust your perception and try to be supportive (hopefully), but for these queer teens, it is an ongoing and monumental thing to manage. So I appreciate that Oseman gives it the gravitas it deserves and makes her entire narrative a celebration of that process.

I only mention the first 3 volumes because the 4th volume is a bit of a departure from her initial themes. It is darker and explores some of the more challenging struggles that teenagers often face, including depression, eating disorders, and self harm. Like many teenage relationships, in their all-consuming passion, Charlie and Nick begin to develop a bit of co-dependency and their families quite wisely advise them to focus on balance in their lives. Charlie learns that he can’t ignore all of his issues and Nick has to come to terms that he can’t be the one to fix all of Charlie’s issues either. Both characters still need to be able to stand on their own two feet and take responsibility for their own struggles. It doesn’t mean they can’t support and be there for one another, but each needs to take ownership over their own mental health as well.

I thought there was only 4 volumes, so I was a bit disappointed when I couldn’t finish the series in one go, but I’m stoked I still get to look forward to spending more time with these characters. I whole heartedly recommend both the graphic novels and the Netflix series to everyone!

August Summary

Okay, August was the best! Well, for books anyways. The wildfires in BC are totally out of control and the air quality was atrocious, so I didn’t do quite as much outdoor stuff, which is one of the reasons it was a great month for books! But also, my August monthly challenge just totally re-vitalized me and got me out of my reading slump!

I was getting a bit hung up with my monthly challenges and the pressure to read specific books, so in August I just set myself the challenge to read pretty much whatever I wanted by trying to read as many of my existing books as possible. I have a lot of un-read books, so it left me with lots of selection to choose from and I finally read some books that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Here’s my summary:

Books read: 11
Pages read: 4,208
Main genres: Young Adult
Favourite book: Nevermoor and Women Talking!

I started off the month with Leah on the Offbeat, Becky Albertalli’s newest book. I’ve heard really great things about this one and I’ve been meaning to get to it for a while, but unfortunately I didn’t love it. I’m really hit or miss with Albertalli’s books and I’m finding myself counter to popular opinion on her books. I liked but didn’t love Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda (but I LOVED the movie) and I really liked The Upside of Unrequited, which I would say is her least popular book. But I didn’t like this one either. Leah kind of rubbed with the wrong way and while I still loved all the diversity in this book, I found parts of it problematic.

After that, I decided to participate in the 25infive readathon, which challenges people to read for 25 hours over the span of 5 days. I didn’t quite finish the challenge (I read 23 hours over 4 days), but I read 4.5 books, so I was super pleased with myself. I started with Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend and Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. I totally flew through both books and I am not slightly obsessed with Nevermoor. Nevermoor is totally Middle Grade fantasy at it’s best and I confirm that the comparison’s to Harry Potter are valid and that everyone should read this book because it is just so much fun! I also loved Radio Silence, which is about the struggles of senior year and the pressure to go to University, and I will definitely be reading more of Alice Oseman.

I followed up those with Ten by Gretchen McNeil and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I pretty much hated Ten and found it problematic and kind of offensive, but I thought To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was really cute. I was only inspired to pick this one up because the new Netflix movie looked really cute (can now confirm – it is cute). Lara Jean seemed like the type of YA book that I gave up long ago, but I loved that this was more a story about sisters than it was about boys and I thought it was really cute. I also read the sequel this month though, P.S. I Still Love You, and unfortunately I thought it was no where near as strong as the first book and basically unnecessary.

While I did read P.S. I Still Love You in August, it wasn’t part of my 25infive reading challenge. The last book I tried to squeeze into the challenge was Uprooted (I got halfway through during the challenge). Uprooted was a challenge for me. It’s a well written, traditional fairytale type story, but I found it so slow moving that it was really hard for me to get into it.

I interspersed my reading of Uprooted with The Last Time I Lied, which was definitely the opposite in terms of pace. This was my first Riley Sager book and it wasn’t quite as scary as I was anticipating, but I really enjoyed it. It was a solid mystery thriller book about a girl name Emma whose 3 friends disappeared at summer camp when she was 13. She’s returned to the camp as an adult and 3 more girls disappear, forcing her into a race against time to figure out what really happened 15 years ago. I was convinced that I had the mystery figured out and I was thrilled to find out I got it totally wrong and didn’t see the twist coming at the end at all.

I had one book that I had to read in August, which was for my book club, was Circe by Madeline Miller, the new fantasy book that came out this year and has super good reviews. I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this one, similar to Uprooted. I thought the story was really good, but it was a slow read for me and the reading experience overall wasn’t great, even though I did like the story.

I read Women Talking by Miriam Toews towards the end of this month and it was definitely one of the best books I read this year! It’s a fictional account of the true story of a community of Bolivian, Mennonite women who were attacked and raped in their sleep over the course of 4 years. After the crime is discovered, the women meet to discuss what to do about it and the whole book is basically a group of them talking about whether they should leave the community or stay and fight. The writing in this book is wonderful and the content is so thoughtful. I would recommend this book to absolutely anyone and everyone.

Finally, I finished the month with a re-read of The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J Maas, which is the prequel to the Throne of Glass series. I am a bit obsessed with this series and with the final book coming out in October, I’ve decided to re-read the whole series! The Assassin’s Blade was just as good as I remembered and I can’t wait to jump into the rest of the books in September!

Radio Silence

Rating: 
Author: Alice Oseman
Genres: Young Adult
Pub date: Feb. 2016 (read Aug. 2018)

Okay, this was pretty fantastic. I cannot believe the author is currently only 24 FREAKING YEARS OLD! I opened up this book and caught a glimpse of her author pic and was like, omg this girl looks like she’s 12. But never underestimate young people because seriously, who can write teenagers better than someone who was basically a teenager when they wrote it.

There’s a lot of really great things happening in this book, but what struck me most is how honest these characters are. After I finished this I immediately picked up a copy of Gretchen McNeil’s Ten, which is a young adult mystery/thriller, and spoiler alert, the dialogue and characters are really bad. Coming out of this book, I immediately noticed that McNeil’s characters were more like caricatures of teenagers rather than actual teenagers. This isn’t a review of Ten, but it was such a contrast to Radio Silence, that it really highlighted to me how great the characters are in this book.

Radio Silence primarily features two teens, Frances and Aled. Frances is head girl at her school and has worked insanely hard her entire life with the end goal of getting into an English Lit program at Cambridge University. Likewise, Aled felt a huge pressure from his mom to succeed in life by attending a prestigious university and has been accepted to a program starting in the fall (he is one year older than Frances).

However, Aled’s secret is that he is the creator of a mildly popular science fiction podcast called Universe City. Frances’ secret is that she’s a huge fan of the podcast and posts fan art to Tumblr under an alias. Aled and Frances both feel pressured to be different people in their real lives than they are in private and Frances regularly acknowledges that she has a school persona and a real persona. When a chance encounter leads them to discover they both love Universe City, they collaborate on the project and develop a really close friendship.

This book features a super diverse cast of characters, both in racial and sexual identity. But my favourite part of the book was the platonic relationship between Frances and Aled. Oseman tells us from the start that this will not be a love story. It’s such a brilliant move because it acknowledges all of the different types of relationships that exist between people and that you don’t have to write a romantic relationship to write a good story. Frances and Aled genuinely both really cared about each other and I loved that this novel showcased that.

My second favourite part of this book was the realistic portrayal of the amount of stress society places on young people to go to university and succeed academically. I suspect there’s a large contingent of people out there that can’t relate to Frances and Aled’s need to be top of their class and the pressure to go to an ivy league university, but I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that don’t excel academically and are made to feel inferior by either not getting into university or not wanting to go.

In some way or another, I think everyone feels insecure in high school. Some people feel the need to excel in academia, others in sports or in the arts. Some people don’t care about any of that and just want a group of people in which to belong or an escape from their sometimes less than ideal home situation. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to those around us, especially in the social media age, and there’s a huge amount of pressure to fit in. There are not many novels written about college or the transition to college, and I thought this was a wonderful portrayal about that period.

In addition to Frances and Aled, Radio Silence features a wonderful cast of secondary characters. I thought Frances’ mom was wonderful and I loved how she supported Frances and in return, how Frances was always very open and honest with her. I loved how the friendships developed in this novel and how Frances eventually came to be close with both Daniel and Raine as well.

Overall I thought this was a fantastic book. It’s captivating in it’s honesty. Every character was portrayed so well and I had no problem believing in the authenticity of each of these people. Well done Alice Oseman, I’m excited to check out her new book, I Was Born For This.

25infive Readathon

I’ve been wanting to participate in a read-a-thon for ages, but I’m always out hiking on weekends and I never get the chance. But it’s calling for a rainy Saturday this weekend, so I decided to devote the day to reading!

Then I discovered that there actually is a read-a-thon called 25infive going on from Aug. 9-13, so I decided to participate! The goal of the read-a-thon is to read 25 hours over 5 days. I decided to start mine a day early, so I’ll run from Aug. 8-12 and so far I’ve managed to fit in 10 of my 25 hours and have completed 2 books.

I’ve already finished Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend (epic read, highly recommend) and Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (also fantastic). Right now I’m working on Ten by Gretchen McNeil and Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I’m also hoping to finish over the weekend. I think there’s a chance I can maybe fit one more book in, or at least start it, any recommendations?