Heartstopper (Volume 1)

Charlie is a shy drummer, trapped in a toxic relationship with an older boy. Nick is a rugby star who hangs out with the lads who used to bully Charlie. When they’re assigned seats beside each other in class, sparks unexpectedly fly, but both boys will have to break out of their social bubbles if they want their growing friendship to evolve into something more.

This charming graphic novel originated as a web comic, which Oseman created because she was so intrigued by the relationship between Charlie and Nick. The boys were initially introduced as minor characters in another book, and she couldn’t let them go. Her love for these characters, and her desire to celebrate their relationship, radiates from every page of this novel. The pace is deliberately slow and the stakes are carefully kept small and grounded, in order to allow every subtle step of the boys’ burgeoning romance to fully resonate. The art is similarly hyper focused, with full panels given over to subtle shifts in body language.

Many of the romance tropes evoked are familiar, but they are extremely well executed, and it’s easy to see why the series has so many devoted fans. Volume 1 is mainly told from Charlie’s perspective, and Nick’s character is a bit less fully formed. Along with the cliffhanger at the end of the novel, this ensures that there’s plenty of material remaining to explore Volume 2.