Heartstopper is a gentle slice of life tale that takes an organic approach to developing the romance. Laconic, using empty space and wordless panels well, we see the unfolding relationship between two boys in a British school grow and develop from uncertain grounds. The artwork is clean and the characters are easy to distinguish.
Story: Charlie was forced to come out earlier in the year and has had to deal with poor situations as a result. When he sits next to Nick, the two hit it off and strike a strong friendship early. As Charlie deals with an abusive entanglement, Nick is grappling with starting to feel more for Charlie than just friendship.
This first volume goes by quickly; 288 pages felt like 14. That’s both good and bad. You’ll want to take your time exploring each panel since the heart of the story is in the art and not the words. But it also means the story goes by quickly and the book feels much slighter than it is. As well, it ends abruptly just as things start to get going, leaving a frustrated feeling of not being given enough in this first volume.
The art is very clean and easy-to-follow. The artist uses a lot of characters/emojis instead of text which convey emotions much better than simply using words. Most importantly, we can understand why the boys are attracted to each other as well as Nick’s confusion about the whole situation. Charlie, meanwhile, is coming to grips with wanting a relationship with someone once again who may not even be gay as well. It is all conveyed brilliantly.
In all, I enjoyed Heartstopper but honestly felt it was too short due to the nature of the storytelling (it really isn’t too short, it just feels that way). I especially enjoyed the heart and warmth here and lack of artifice or fake drama. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.