“When people know you’re mentally ill, most people either want to ignore it completely or they treat you like your strange, scary, or fascinating. Very few people are actually good at the middle ground.
The middle ground isn’t hard. It’s just being there. Being helpful, if help is needed. Being understanding, even if they don’t understand everything.”
― Alice Oseman, This Winter
“I think sometimes,’ says Nick, ‘you’re so scared of being a burden that it makes you terrified to ask for help. But you have lots of people around you that would be there for you, if you opened up about what help you need.”― Alice Oseman, This Winter
Spoilers for Heartstopper ahead.
This Winter is a novella that explains, in more detail than in the graphic novels, Charlie’s first Christmas at home after his anorexia diagnosis and his in-patient treatment. In Heartstopper volume 4, Charlie’s mental health deteriorates to the point where his family and boyfriend convince him to go to a facility that specializes in treating young adults with anorexia and other eating disorders. This book picks back up with Charlie on Christmas Day, a couple of weeks after he moves back home.
Each chapter is written as a diary entry by Charlie, his sister Tori, or his brother, Oliver.
Holidays can be stressful even in the best of times. Now, Charlie has to deal with a host of relatives coming over and asking him questions that go from mildly strange to extremely offensive. He’s stressing about how they will treat him now that they know about his hospital stay.
His sister Tori wants to help, but she is only able to guess how Charlie is feeling. She tries to stay close to him and step in when cousins and uncles decide that it is time to share their opinions on what is best for Charlie and on mental health diagnoses and treatments. And, since this is a Christmas dinner, everyone is watching him to see if he is eating, what he is eating, how much he does or doesn’t eat, and whether or not he likes what he is eating.
The good: Tori’s take on things is great. She is dealing with her own discomfort of having to deal with annoying family members and with just being a teenage girl in a family that doesn’t know how to talk or not to talk to Charlie. She and Charlie are struggling with how this winter has been so hard, but that no one, including either of them, knows how to talk about how they are feeling when everyone else continues to pretend that everything is normal.
The bad: I don’t have anything bad to say about this, other than it is too short. I can’t wait for Heartstopper volume five to come out next year.