Heartstopper volume 3 by Alice Oseman
Published February 6th, 2020
My library holds on Becky Chambers’ The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, Katherine Addison’s The Witness for the Dead, and the third volume of Alice Oseman’s graphic novel Heartstopper all came in at the same time, putting me in the enviable position of reading and reviewing the coziest, most heartwarming stack of all time! I read this volume of Heartstopper on a lazy Sunday and, sure enough, it is an absolute delight. If you have not already done so and you’re looking for a light read, please give this series a shot!
Charlie and Nick are now boyfriends and Nick has even come out as bisexual to his mom, but they’re not yet out as a couple. As Nick and Charlie try to decide how to tell their friends and classmates that they’re dating, things are made even more complicated by a school trip to Paris.
Before I picked this up, I wondered how well Oseman would be able to maintain tension and propel the plot forward as Heartstopper continues. I was wrong to ever doubt the great Alice Oseman because she’s accomplished it beautifully here! Centered on coming out, volume three is based on the idea that coming out isn’t just a “one and done” event, as is sometimes depicted in pop culture, but a continual process. Even though Charlie and Nick have supportive family members and a queer, inclusive friend group, they still struggle with when and how to tell their friends that they’re dating. This is especially challenging for Charlie, who was bullied by his classmates when he came out as gay and does not want to go through a similar experience or to see his boyfriend subjected to it. The stress of going through this experience does take a toll, and there are content warnings for this volume for discussion of self-harm and eating disorders.
For all the heaviness of the subject matter, there is so much joy to be had in Heartstopper. It’s there in the way they’re supported by the adults in their life (including a very cute C plot about the teacher chaperones), in stolen kisses and moments, in the way Nick and Charlie look at each other, and at being young and in love in the city of love.
In a welcome change of pace, volume 3 thrusts Nick and Charlie’s friend group into the spotlight and we see more of girlfriends Darcy and Tara, mutually pining Elle and Tao, and sweet Aled, and learn their backstories. The change of setting is also appreciated, allowing Oseman to illustrate Paris as seen through the eyes of her teenage characters.
Finally I want to say how much I love the fact that although bad things do happen in the Alice Oseman Universe, there is community and acceptance to be found, and support systems in place for those who need them.
TL;DR: Delightful continuation of Nick and Charlie’s story and the process of coming out as a couple to their friends amidst a school trip to Paris. It also fleshes out the backstories of this friend group in a satisfying way.