Graphic novel review: The Heartstopper Yearbook by Alice Oseman

(courtesy Hachette Australia)

Now an acclaimed live-action Netflix series! Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. This joyful trip into the LGBTQ+ world of Heartstopper is the perfect gift for anyone who loves the graphic novels or Netflix TV series – from Alice Oseman, bestselling author and winner of the YA Book Prize. Now in full colour for the first time!

The full-colour Heartstopper Yearbook is packed full of exclusive content from the Heartstopper universe – including never-before-seen illustrations, an exclusive mini-comic, a look back at Alice’s Heartstopper artwork over the years, character profiles, trivia, and insights into her creative process – all narrated by a cartoon version of Alice herself.

By the winner of the YA Book Prize, Heartstopper is about love, friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us. (courtesy

The world is divided into an infinitesimal number of people groups when it comes to pop culture, but for our purposes in this post, they are split into those who love to peek behind the curtain and see what’s gone into the making of something they love, and those who are quite happy to leave the magic for the front of house storytelling delights.

Clearly when it comes to Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series, first a much-loved graphic novel series before becoming a massive watercooler hit for Netflix with a deafening buzz to accompany it that speaks to how many people needed the love story of Nick (Kit Connor) and Charlie (Joe Locke) to be told, those in the first group far outweigh those in the second.

How do we know this, anecdotally at least?

The release of the HIGHLY-anticipated The Heartstopper Yearbook, which comes with a timeline of the creative process over many years that gave birth to Nick and Charlie’s grand romance, and the stories of Tao (William Gao) and Elle (Yasmin Finney), Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) – who get their own mini-comic in the book, and character profiles of those you love and some you hate, proves without a doubt that we all want more Heartstopper behind the scenes wonderfulness.

And wonderful it is, the entire book suffused with Oseman’s giddy enthusiasm for what she does, and the characters she has created, all of whom, the main ones particularly, speak to how much, as queer people, that we need to see out stories told.

This is true for those young enough to be enjoying the first blooms of their sexuality now – when I bought my copy earlier in the week, the next person to grab one was a high schooler excitedly telling his friend over the phone that he had it; it was a joy to hear someone so publicly expressing how much something transcendentally and queerly joyful was making them – and for those of us well past our youthful prime who are thankful that queer love is getting the rom-com treatment we all craved way back when.

Truth be told, we are all probably a little jealous that we didn’t get these kinds of public youthful queer happy-ever-afters but far, FAR, more, we are truly, deeply thankful that the stories are out there now because they are telling the world, in ways magically creative, emotionally rich and colourful, that love truly is love, no matter what form it takes.

(courtesy Hachette Australia)

That’s a message worth getting out there because so many of us have been told that we are worth less and are somehow “wrong” because we’re queer when the truth there is nothing wrong with us or who we love at all.

We could shout that militantly from the rooftops but really, no one would listen, or we could do what Heartstopper does so profoundly beautifully, and simply tell the stories of people like Nick and Charlie, Tao and Elle, Tara and Darcy, all of whom love with purity and devotion and who have found in each other, friendship and the kind of found family that we all need, full of unconditional love, support and soul-empowering affirmation.

While we wait for series two of the show to stream, The Heartstopper Yearbook, takes us back into the world of Nick and Charlie, and shows how they grew and developed into the society-changing figures they are today.

And that is the truth of it – Heartstopper, like Will and Grace and countless other LGBTQI+ shows before it, is warm and loving and sweet and heartstoppingly tragic and real at times too, but it is also an agent of necessary change, the kind that will help so many people realise that who they are matters, that the lives they live are important and that who they love isn’t weird or strange, as the bigots love to tell us, but instead, wholly wonderful and beautiful.

Having a book like The Heartstopper Yearbook matters far beyond the hugely welcome and immensely entertaining mini-comics and trivia, and the year of Heartstopper moments it promises, and delivers on, because it’s yet another reminder that who we are is a rich and life-affirming thing.

It’s a joy to read too with some lovely exclusive artwork and insights by Oseman into what made her go a certain way with a character or the series as a whole, and a sense, once again, of spending time with people you would LOVE to have us friends.

It’s important as well because with reality seemingly set, quite apart from the bullies and the trolls, with making life as bleakly miserable as possible at times, we see a vision of what might be, a reassurance that life as we want it is not just right but possible, and that it can can happen, might happen, WILL happen.

You could dismiss Heartstopper as so much fairytale idealism, but while its queer found family and unconditional acceptance and support might tend towards the too-good-to-be-true end of the spectrum – that’s not a criticism; stories like this must be both truthful and aspirational or what are aiming for and dreaming of? – there is a robust truthfulness to it all, with plenty of queer people attesting to the fact that when you find your people, whoever they may be, that life becomes an altogether other kind of richer.

It’s good to be reminded of that, and reminded a lot, and so it’s a gift to have The Heartstopper Yearbook in our hands so we can spend some more time with Nick and Charlie, Tao and Elle, Tara and Darcy and live the lives we’d like to live, taking that inspiration and comfort into our real lives which are all the better for having these wonderful characters and their queerly loving world in it.

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