Heartstopper really is just a warm hug of a series. Even when I know where things are going already, having seen the television show already, I’m not about to turn down that comforting, familiar squeeze. Volume two continues the trend of having most of the same beats as the show, but gone is a lot of what the show added in to heighten the drama. Basically, it’s fewer anxious moments and a faster happy ending, which I see nothing wrong with. Perhaps some of those plot elements will factor in in the fourth volume, or maybe they were invented entirely for the show. I’ll find out soon enough, as my copy is set to arrive in a couple days. As I was saying, though, volume two serves as a nice breather before we start to wade into heavier topics. Our characters remain slightly on edge, but we’re mostly in cutesy territory for the duration of the book.
It’s once we reach volume three that Oseman dips into weightier subject matter, such as self-harm and eating disorders, and we see the anxiety level get kicked up to 11. This made for not as pleasant a read as the first two volumes, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t still love it. These are things absolutely worth delving into, and I’m certain volume four will pick them back up in a big way, especially because I’d heard whispers of darker aspects the show’s first season had left untouched when news came out about the second season being greenlit.
Heartstopper does a fine job showing things from all sides. We see about every side of the LGBTQ coin, so to speak. There’s the willingly out, the out-and-proud, the outed, the closeted, the homophobic, the allies, the curious, etc. It manages to include all manners of LGBTQ folk without making it seem like some sort of utopia; outside the bubble of friends we see in the book, it’s sort of a crapshoot. Oseman doesn’t gloss over the effect this has on her characters, nor does she skimp out on showing that the right people can help heal that damage, or at least take your mind off of it in the best way possible.
And Oseman establishes that there’s no right way to do any of this. Charlie wants to spare Nick his own experience of being the talk of the school and getting bullied, but he realizes that Nick will be okay, and he’ll be okay, because they have one another, and the freedom of being out together is a worthy tradeoff for any barbs thrown their way. He decides he has to stop letting others decide things for him and take matters into his own hands for once, like he did with Nick in the first place. This advice isn’t perfect, as there obviously exist situations where people might keep it to themselves out of fear for their own safety, or people without a strong enough support system to weather the resulting storm, yet I do think it can be a helpful approach to some people, and not just in situations related to coming out.
There are any number of things you might keep to yourself for fear of people’s reaction. Heartstopper seems determined to show that only good can come in the long run from being open about things, even if it’s heart-rending. Whether it be your sexuality, past, mental health, etc., you are the sum of it all and people should get the chance to know you fully, as long as you feel it’s safe. I grew up in a household that held everything close to the chest, my mom never even mentioning possible depression until I brought up my own once as an adult, and I want to change that with my own family as my fiancee and I get ready to start it. And I think books like Heartstopper go a long way towards helping further that end goal for society as a whole.