It’s been a very good year for LGBTQ romance comics and I, for one, am living for every single one I pick up. Among these is Alice Oseman‘s Heartstopper, which focuses on the relationship between two characters from her YA novel Solitaire: Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson.

Heartstopper chronicles the boys’ first meeting, the development of their friendship, and their careful slide into becoming boyfriends. Oseman effortlessly captures the feeling of first love, including the complex emotions that can arise from falling from your friend so hard and so fast. Although they like each other very much, getting a crush on a boy pushes Nick to have a bit of a sexuality crisis before determining that he’s definitely bi, and after Charlie was outed and consequently bullied last year, his friends are especially protective of him having a crush on a “straight” guy.

Here’s the full synopsis:

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…? Written and illustrated by the author of Solitaire and Radio Silence. Updates three times a month on the 1st, 11th, and 21st.

Content warnings: Violence, swearing, homophobia, assault, mental illness, self-harm. Please note that there will be NO graphic or explicit imagery of any kind (e.g. violent, disturbing, or sexual) in this comic.

According to Oseman’s update notes, Heartstopper is about halfway through its planned arc. Heading into the tail end of Chapter 4, which will comprise Vol. 3 of the physical books, Charlie’s family and friends have become recurring characters, with Nick’s family and friends making frequent appearances as well. Perhaps because Oseman’s books mostly take place in this same world, the secondary characters are as fully realized as the two protagonists; there are two secondary romances that are equally wonderful in their own ways, too.

It’s clear how much time, planning, and attention to detail Oseman pours into this story, to the reader’s incredible benefit. Heartstopper has gained a very dedicated fanbase, and rightly so — it doesn’t shy away from the difficult parts of being a queer teenager, but it also doesn’t zero in on those things and force its characters to suffer unnecessarily. As the story and their relationship progresses, Charlie and Nick each grow more confident, helped along by their loved ones and each other. They’re in this together, which makes the whole story feel that much more hopeful; it’s the kind of young adult, LGBTQ romance we need more of in the world, and I’m so, so glad it exists.

Heartstopper updates three times a month on the 1st, 11th, and 21st at 11 a.m. UK time. You can read on Tumblr or Tapas. To gain access to new pages early, as well as exclusive art and sketches, you can support Oseman on Patreon. And if you want to keep up with Alice Oseman on social media, follow them on Twitter.

Heartstopper Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 are both available in paperback now. Vol. 3 is slated for release in 2020. The story has also been optioned for TV (!) — here’s hoping it sees development sooner rather than later!

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