After falling in love with Alice Oseman’s latest novel Loveless back at the start of the year, I decided to dive into her backlist and start reading everything she ever wrote. This didn’t quite go as planned with her debut Solitaire, but after that I found her graphic novels and now I am in love with Nick and Charlie. So here’s a bulk review of 1 novel, 4 graphic novels and 2 novellas.
Alice Oseman’s debut novel tells the story of Tori Spring, a severely depressed 16yo student in a (mostly) all-girls school. Tori is numb to everything, and struggles with relating to her friends and classmates. This story kicks off with an anonymous website calling itself solitaire wreaking havoc in the school and apparently targeting Tori individually. The tagline to this book says “this is not a love story” and it’s true. It flirts a bit with a love triangle trope, but to be honest, Tori is not buying it.
Anyway, overall Solitaire had its issues. The book is dealing with delicate issues through the eyes of an extremely unreliable narrator and I don’t think it’s the best representation of any of it. We talk about depression, self-harm, suicide attempts, eating disorders, the whole shebang, and none of it is done particularly carefully. This was Oseman’s debut novel, and it shows.
Regardless, I enjoyed the first half of this book quite a bit, and it wasn’t until the end that it disappointed me. I just disliked the ending. I don’t want to go into spoilers, but let’s just say the ending felt immature – like how I’d expect mediocre tween-written fanfic to end: with too much unbelievable drama and non-existent adult supervision.
The saving grace for it were Nick and Charlie, who are side characters. Charlie is Tori’s 15yo brother and Nick is his boyfriend. They’re in an established relationship in this book and they’re adorable, so I decided I was going to read the other books in this post. 🙂
The first graphic novel starts long before the events of Solitaire, and tells the story of how Nick and Charlie met. Nick (15) and Charlie (14) go to an all boys school. Charlie has been severely bullied earlier in the year when he came out as gay, but things seem to have settled down a bit. Nick plays rugby and is a year ahead of Charlie. They meet when they get paired up in class, and then Nick convinces Charlie to join the rugby team.
The first book is all about the boys meeting and becoming friends, Charlie having a crush and Nick maybe liking Charlie as more than a friend. I loved it. It was sweet and wonderful and I am a fan. 🙂
The second graphic novel is now dealing with their way into becoming the couple we see in Solitaire. Nick coming to terms with what it means to like Charlie (is he gay? is he bi?), dealing with their respective groups of friends and understanding that maybe Charlie needs a little help once and again.
We start to see in this volume that not everything is fine and dandy with Charlie in terms of his mental health, and in this series I think Alice Oseman has done it beautifully.
The boys are now officially dating, even if they haven’t told their friends yet, and students from both the town’s all-boys and all-girls schools are off to a joint trip to Paris. Yay! This all about navigating this secret relationship, and coming clean to their friends, and some more reflection on Charlie’s anorexia. Again, I most definitely recommend this to everyone in the planet.
The latest volume of Heartstopper really digs into Charlie’s mental health. It takes place roughly at the same time as Solitaire, and we get to really understand what drove Charlie to the events of that book. His relationship with his mother, his need for control, all of it. It’s really a wonderful book and I don’t want to say much more because it’s just a short graphic novel and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.
This Winter ***
This novella takes place in the middle of Heartstopper vol. 4, and deals with all 3 Spring kids, but mostly with the wake of Charlie’s stint in hospital. It’s all about coming home, Christmas, and family, and how claustrophobic it can be to be surrounded by it. And then it’s about kind of escaping home and finding home with our found families. It was short and sweet, but I still don’t care about Tori.
Nick and Charlie*****
This final novella is all about Nick and Charlie dealing with Nick’s leaving for Uni. Or not dealing very well with it. What can I say, the entire thing about these boys is that they’re pretty good with communicating until in this book, they’re suddenly not. Gasp, they actually break up! Or do they? This is another short novella that makes us all wish we had a relationship like these teen boys. Is that sad?
REP -> Solitaire (this book and the entire series are all about mental health)
SPORTS BALL -> Heartstopper vol. 1 (they’re on the Rugby team together)
FREE! -> Heartstopper vol. 2 (I got all these books from the library)
TRAVEL -> Heartstopper vol. 3 (the boys go to Paris)
NEW SERIES -> Heartstopper vol. 4 (Heartstopper vol. 1 was published in Feb 2019)
HOME -> This Winter (Christmas-time in the Spring household)
PANDEMIC -> Nick and Charlie (this just makes me happy 🙂 )