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Captivating Love Story Continues: A Review of ‘Heartstopper’ Volume 5

Wait…Can you… do you hear that? It’s the screams and wails of queer kids and allies alike as we finally receive our preorders of the volume we’ve been so eagerly anticipating. It’s true. It’s here! The fifth volume of ‘Heartstopper’ was FINALLY released (*squeel*) and we have our thoughts.

Did we read it in a day? No. We read it in two hours. Don’t judge. This article contains our thoughts on the series so far, some notes on V5 and our hopes and questions for the future of ‘Heartstopper’. A series representing gays, bisexuals, lesbians, transgender people and beyond, these stories are truly special, especially to those of us who grew up with little to no representation of other queer people like us in books and on screens.

If there’s one things ‘Heartstopper’ is, it’s inclusive. But it’s not just one thing. It’s nostalgic, emotional, relatable – all sorts of things to all sorts of people, which is just one of the things that makes it beautiful. This probably goes without saying, but some MAJOR spoiler alerts ahead!!! (Also, trigger warning: this article will mention eating disorders, sexual pressure, mental health and harassment)

Alice Oseman’s ‘Heartstopper’ instalments follow teens Nick Nelson and Charlie Spring and their friends as they navigate issues such as coming out, harassment in multiple forms and eating disorders, particularly anorexia. This volume mostly covers the major topic of ‘the first time’.

Oseman brings questions into play such as “what ‘counts’ as sex?”, “how do you know you’re ready?” and “when will your mum be home?”. Maybe the last two are a little more common but, at least for queer people, the questions of what ‘counts’ as sex is important to address. Doing what makes you comfortable, having fun and ignoring labels can all be valid and beautiful things. Your own sexual experience is yours and yours alone.

We love that Charlie and Nick feel that they’re naturally ready and don’t really receive scary social pressures to get it done. Growing up, there’s a lot of pressure to do a lot of things and, when you’re older, you realise how little you care about hitting those milestones and that valuing your time and space and personal boundaries is way more important. Oseman finds the balance between being comfortable in your decision to ‘do the deed’ and environmental influence, pushing the conversation on to the table without pushing too much pressure along with it.

Poor Nick. Despite not receiving sexual pressure, he is in fact pressured to commit an act which somehow feels embarrassing, but is in fact a common experience for many – buying lube and condoms in a public place WITHOUT using the self-checkout. Brave, brave Nick. Seriously though, we’re super grateful to Oseman for providing this little universe of queer safety and especially emphasising the importance of sexual safety and education.

Always be safe, folks, and wait until you’re ready. Also, it’s kind of just nice to see the queer first-time reflected in pop culture. The little build-ups and ‘embarrassing’ moments just aren’t often represented and addressed as much as they should be and queer people deserve just as much representation! Because believe it or not people, we also get embarrassed.

Alice Oseman also breaks into the, perhaps more terrifying, world of university choices. North of England, South of England. Where to go? If you’re currently going through or recently have been through the university decision process, the words ‘UCAS application’ will likely remind you of how terrifying the whole thing can be.

Nick is torn between staying near home and (therefore) near Charlie or venturing out to Leeds and exploring this new and interesting world he’s found: the North East. We love you, Leeds. Luckily, his friends helpfully point out that it’s his future, not Charlie’s.

We’re sure a lot of people have faced this dilemma and it’s a toughy. Your heathy relationship versus your university choice. It’s hard, we know. Sometimes, when you don’t know what to do yet, it can be easy to just say “I’ll just stay home then, I don’t know what I’m going to do anyway”, but it’s a dangerous decision to make if you don’t know that you’ll be as happy, potentially without your partner, in that place in a few years’ time.

Luckily, in the UK, most drives/ travel routes are within a day’s journey time, so you can usually see each other a couple times a month at least, hopefully. Sometimes, though, ticket prices don’t reflect that, and the student loans don’t exactly cater to LDRs and subsequent ticket purchases. We sympathise with anyone further apart than this. Stay strong. 

Charlie has an amazing character arc in this volume too. His confidence grows following his ED treatment in hospital and it’s so amazing to see his mental health improving. His therapist is such an icon and we love to see Charlie thriving like the beautiful blossoming flower we know he can be (so proud). Elle and Tao are going strong and, like them, Tara and Darcy don’t have too much airtime this volume but continue going strong too. Nick faces tough choices and grows his connections with Elle and Tara on the uni road trip. It’s great to see some of our fave characters all happy and evolving. 

Alice Oseman, did we have to end like that? We know there’s a V6 on the way but, seriously, we simply can not wait that long. We will, though. Here’s some questions we have at Nonchalant about Nick and Charlie: How are they really feeling about the whole distance thing? Will Nick get into Leeds? Will Charlie also apply to Leeds next year? Will he become head boy? And what about Elle and Tao? How are they gonna do with long-distance?

We love Nick and Charlie and want them both happy, and we want to know now, of course, but it’s all the more to look forward to in Volume 6, the final instalment. Yes! Final! (*sounds of excited, yet tearful, screams*) The bookshops will, at last, be able to sell full collections. Full! Readers may finally stop holding their breath for the final moves of our beloved characters. Soon, season 3 of ‘Heartstopper’ will be out on Netflix (and hopefully renewed for another series?) and we can turn our attention to our televisions as superstars Joe Locke and Kit Connor bring to life Charlie and Nick through literally the cutest graphics in the world, courtesy of creator, Alice Oseman. 

If you’re looking for other coming out stories, see this article (it’s great). Maybe you read V5 too and want to leave us your thoughts below? We’d love to see them!

All our love, Team Nonchalant xx

Jo Carter
Jo Carter

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