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!

A Court of Mist and Fury

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy
Pub. Date: May. 2016 (read Dec. 2016)
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #2

I recently re-read ACOMAF and ACOWAR (but not ACOTAR because I hate it). I had a review for ACOMAF on my goodreads that I’ve apparently never posted here, and discovered I’d never actually written a review for ACOWAR. So check out my old review for ACOMAF here and I’ll post my ACOWAR review shortly.

This review has some spoilers for ACOTAR and ACOMAF.

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I love this book so much!!

I read this series for the first time about 5 months ago because I love Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Unfortunately, I really didn’t like ACOTAR, but I stuck with it because I heard ACOMAF was much better and I’m so glad I did!

I love Feyre’s journey in this book. She was such a contradiction in the first book, being both strong, but also whiny and pathetic. I thought she was so real in this book. What happened Under the Mountain completely destroyed her and I appreciated Maas for recognizing that it’s okay for strong characters to fall apart. It took time for Feyre to accept the things that happened to her and her slow healing felt so natural and cathartic.

This book was quite a bit longer than the first of the series, but I thought the flow of the story was fantastic. I love where the story went and all the new characters we were introduced to throughout. I loved everyone in Rhysand’s inner circle and I felt they were all well-realized characters, yet I’m excited because I know there’s so much more to learn about them.

And of course, this book was sexy. The slow build flirtation and romance throughout completely moved the story along. I absolutely love the love story in this book. Feyre and Rhys’ relationship was so moving and healthy, I totally fell in love with Rhys too. A lot of romances feel very one sided (i.g., the man as protector or decision maker), but the romance in ACOMAF was built on equality and the freedom to make your own choices. What I loved about Rhys was that all his imperfections were what made him perfect. I loved that Maas took a character that had been pretty awful and made me fall in love with him.

As much as I didn’t like ACOTAR, I can appreciate it a little bit more now that I’ve seen where Maas was planning to take the story. This was my second read-through and I am going to start A Court of Wings and Ruin immediately because it just came out today!!

My Sister, the Serial Killer

Rating:
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Genres: Fiction
Pub. date: Nov. 2018 (read Aug. 2019 on Audible)

Woo, this was a fun little novella! It was a mistake to buy this on Audible because I listened to it way too fast! Seriously, I flew through it in like 3 days. Great narrator though!

I’ve seen this book popping up in a few places, but I wasn’t sure if the premise was exactly as the name suggestions… it is. My Sister, the Serial Killer is set in Nigeria and is told from the point of view of Korede, a young nurse whose sister has a suspicious tendency to be forced to kill her boyfriends. Ayoola always has a reason, either he attacked her, or tried to rape her, or he just happened to be poisoned while they were out to dinner together. But she consistently looks to her straight laced sister to help her clean up the mess.

Korede is torn between her obligations and loyalty to her family, and her fear for the men of Lagos. Either way, she decides to keep quiet. But when Ayoola starts getting close with one of the doctor’s at her hospital, she can’t deny she is torn about what to do.

Despite the gruesome nature of the plotline, this was a fun little book. Honestly, I found Korede’s dilemma highly entertaining. The author infuses a lot of humour into the story and the juxtaposition of the humour against the dark storyline really compliment each other wonderfully. This is the kind of extremism that really highlights human nature. On one hand, Ayoola is clearly crazy and should be locked up, but on the other hand, you can’t help admire her guts. Korede totally enables her, but what other choice does she have unless she decides to turn her sister in. After the first time, she’s an accessory in the murders, so to turn on her sister would also be the end of her life too.

it’s a short book, but I liked it that way. It was tightly plotted and you have to admire an author who says what they need to say and then moves on. No superfluous writing in this one!

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Rating: 
Author: Jessica Townsend
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pub date: Oct. 2017 (read Aug. 2018)

I’ve been seeing Nevermoor pop up on Booktube and for some reason decided I didn’t have an interest in it. But I recently heard it labelled as the “next Harry Potter” and that there were a lot of comparisons that could be made between the two, so of course I finally had to pick up a copy. Best decision ever because this book was so much fun from start to finish!

Morrigan Crow is eleven years old and has the unfortunate bad luck of being born on Eventide. As a result, she’s considered a cursed child in the Wintersea Republic and is blamed for every bad thing that happens in her village. But her real bad luck is that cursed children always die on the eve of the next Eventide, which happens to be the day after Morrigan’s eleventh birthday.

Morrigan just wants to be remembered, but when the next Eventide is announced, it’s obvious her family is already preparing to move on and forget about her. However, before death can catch her, Morrigan is whisked away to Nevermoor, the free state, by the enigmatic Jupiter North, who selects Morrigan to be his first ever candidate for the Wundrous Society. But in order to be admitted to the Society, Morrigan must complete her trials and be selected by the judges.

What made this book fantastic was that it had so many layers. It’s been a long time since I read a book like this and it made me realize how much I miss clever fantasy stories with a strong mystery element. This has obvious parallels to Harry Potter with the 11 year old being whisked away to another world, the magical elements, her wise mentor figure, the foreboding unnamed villain, and the humourous moments woven throughout the story. But it’s the larger mystery of this story and the complex world building that made this such a good book and worthy of being compared to Harry Potter.

This was a 450 page book and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this world. It was a brilliant debut with just the right balance of world-building, character development, and whimsy. Townsend doesn’t give up all her secrets and I know there’s so many more surprises and quirks to be developed in this series. I don’t really know where the author plans to take the plot, but I get the feeling that it will have a lot more depth than what we’ve been introduced to in the first book.

I really wouldn’t change anything about this book. I have so many questions, yet I was still satisfied by the ending. I can’t wait to find out more about the Wundrous Society and what mischief Morrigan and Hawthorne will get up to in the next book. There were so many intriguing characters in this book and I can’t wait to learn more about Jupiter, Jack, Fen, Cadence, Noelle, and of course, the Wundersmith.

Book 2 can’t come soon enough! Everyone should read this!