book reviews, spoiler free

Heartstopper Volume One

40495957Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Rating: XXXXX

Published February 7th 2019 by Hodder Children’s Books

“I have a six-year-old brother. Mario Kart is my life. And you get to be good at real sports. I get to be good at fake ones.”

“You’re good at everything, you nerd!”

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

I’ve been reading books for new releases and blog tours etc pretty solidly for the past two months and today I decided to finally take a day off and try out one of the books that have been patiently waiting for me that aren’t bound by release deadlines etc and today felt like a day that definitely needed a splash of Heartstopper, just looking at this book makes me happy. It’s pink spine, the bright but not painful colours of the cover and Alice’s distinctive simple yet powerful style of art brightened my day before I even read the first page. I met Alice at the Quiet at the End of the World launch event last month and having not read any of her books before I decided Heartstopper would be a good one to start with as it had already caught my attention on Twitter plenty of times, turns out I think this book may be considered a gateway drug to more Oseman.

in 2014 Alice Oseman released her first novel, Solitare which featured a sixteen-year-old girl called Tori who had a brother called Charlie who had a loving, committed boyfriend called Nick. In 2015, she released an ebook called Nick and Charlie which looked at their relationship a year on from the events of Solitare and found herself thinking about the backstory behind their relationship prior to Solitare and although she tried many times to write it as a novel she found it never really quite worked until it occurred to her that was because Nick and Charlie’s relationship didn’t fit a novel and instead on September 1st 2016, created the Heartstopper comic Tumblr page and uploaded the first eleven pages of Nick and Charlies story.

“There’s no gradual rise and fall. Nick and Charlie’s story isn’t like that. Nick and Charlie’s story is made up of fragments. Episodes. There are episodes of their lives; small stories that makeup something larger. The story of them meeting. The story of them becoming friends. The story of them falling in love, becoming boyfriends, finding their way through a new relationship, fighting back against mental illness. It doesn’t work as a novel because there’s no overarching drama – because it’s just real life. Just one normal, loving relationship between two people. And so what I realised was that the best way to tell this story would be through a webcomic.”

Then in 2018, Alice ran a Kickstarter to collect the first two chapters in a physical edition which was also later picked up and published through Hodder Children’s books with a volume two due to release in July this year! Alice also updates the webcomic online, three times a week and honestly dear reader you should be honoured that I’m even sitting at my desk writing this review because I desperately just want to devour every single chapter of this story right now but this book was so brilliant I need to tell everyone. So if you somehow haven’t heard of Heartstopper before now, consider yourself informed and get on it because it is an absolute gift.

Just thinking about this book makes me want to cry. It’s beautiful, it’s funny and it’s heartwarming and so just SO DAMN WHOLESOME I want to turn it into a blanket and wrap myself in it forever. Honestly, it’s just so hard to describe the warm feeling in my chest that reading this book gave me. I loved the familiar Brittish setting and phrases etc, even down to their school uniform which was pretty similar to the one I wore (gulp) so many years ago which gave it a nice extra level of relatability for me. Watching Nick and Charlie grow as friends and the interactions they have were some of my favourite parts of Volume one and I couldn’t honestly just reading about them hanging out all day. I could go on and on about Nick and Charlie but I want to make sure I mention that not only do I love the natural feeling evolution of their relationship I also love what they feel separate from each other as well, I came out / was outed at school and went through some confusing feelings at the time as well as going on to have crushes on “the straight one” as it were so this all feels startlingly real and it’s just handled so well and as Alice herself as stated, it’s just real life. Also there’s Nellie the doggo and she is the best thing that ever graced any page ever and I love her.

I’ve read a lot of manga, comics and other graphic novels in my time that I found the format enjoyable but terribly morish because it was such an easy afternoon read, I seriously considered reading the entire thing over again once I’d finished it the first time. Not only is Alice’s art style absolutely adorable and an absolute joy to look at it’s so evocative and she really knows how to use this format well, from simple panels or backgrounds used to portray emotions, certain angles and switches as well as the magic of the simple page turn she does a fantastic job of making these techniques as important and as part of the story as the art and words itself.

I figured I would wait until the next volume came out in July to carry on with Nick and Charlie’s story and although I will certainly be buying it when it does, I won’t like dear reader, I currently have the Tumblr page open and ready with chapter three to read once I’ve finished this review. You can check out the webcomic here. Alice posts updates for free but I highly recommend supporting her via Patreon if able or Tapas if not, more information is available on her Tumblr page. Also, just a note that if you haven’t read Solitare there are no spoilers in Heartstopper for it, as I mentioned it appears Heartstopper is a gateway drug and I’m about six words away from ordering it myself.

book reviews, crone book club

The Exact Opposite of Okay

35817737The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

Published: March 8th 2018 by Electronic Monkey

Rating: XXXXX

“Basically, if you’re a woman, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off – after all, her sex life, her terms – but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the centre of a national scandal. Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has…
I had seen this book a few times and sadly did my usual, “oh its contemporary, I don’t know if I’m that interested” and passed it by. I need to stop doing this (that’s a whole other blog post) because I almost missed this AMAZING book. Thankfully Jenn from the #CroneBookClub picked this as our read for May and I managed to just squeeze it in after this months other reads and WOW. I’m so glad for it.
This book is something I would recommend every person on the planet read. Not just because it’s a great read but also because of the situations and messages portrayed within the story that are SO important and need to be understood by men, women, girls, boys and honestly any other gender on the spectrum because we live in a world where too many of us tear each other down, we emotionally manipulate those we supposedly care about and are emotionally manipulated by them and slut shaming is so rampant and practised by so many, not to mention the terrifying wave of revenge porn ushered in with the birth of camera phones and social media. Although stereotypically we find men behind revenge porn and spouting about the imaginary friend zone just as women tend to be some of the worst for slut shaming and I want to address first that I know this isn’t always the way. Any gender and sexuality is capable of these things but during this review I’ll be using the examples used within the book.
I managed to read The Exact Opposite of Okay in about three sittings and could not put it down. The story is written in a blog post format that I’m becoming increasingly fond of, it gives the narrative an extra twist of personality and is the perfect way of bringing Izzy’s particular brand of humour across, I especially liked the added closed captions often explaining or adding more information and comments from a later date as well. I think this easy to read format was one of the reasons it was such a quick read for me, possibly because I’m a blogger or a young(ish – haha) enough person that I’ve been around technology for a good deal of my life and therefore read a lot of information in this kind of format.
The personality of the characters in this feel done very well and I had no trouble remembering who was who and what they were like etc. I found myself very protective of Izzy and Ajita and I did have to have a brief break to rant and rave to my poor husband about how people need to mind their own business re: slut shaming etc and a long intense full on rant about how the friend zone is a stupid figment of imagination dreamed up by “butt hurt” men (again I know not always men but in this case it was relevant to the situation and my personal experience). This is a good thing, this book should make people angry at the injustices that the main character and others are subjected to because these things happen every single day to people around us and that is not okay. This book feels like it stoked a fire that had previously just been simmering embers inside me and it made me so mad for the people events like these affect.
I was extremely satisfied with the ending which is a rarity for me, I usually don’t like endings but this felt like it ended right and I was happy with it.
After Laura Steven herself joined the Crone Book Club for their monthly chat to discuss her book she revealed that there is in fact a sequel coming next year AND a spin-off about a murder podcast also set at Edgewood and I’m excited for both of these! If you haven’t checked out The Exact Opposite of Okay I highly recommend you do so! I feel like this is such an important book not to mention enjoyable, don’t let my ranting about the subject put you off because this book is genuinely so enjoyable and funny.
Thank you for checking out my review and I’ll catch you again soon.
Jemma.
jemma setterington