- Published in 2021 by Hodder Children’s Books
- Format: Paperback
- Reading Time: 1 heart-stopping day
- Entirely surprised to find this on sale in my local Waterstones. I didn’t think this was coming out for another few weeks. Still, I’m not complaining. Especially when it ties into the ‘body part in the title’ prompt of the Nerd Daily Reading Challenge. Nick and Charlie are officially boyfriends but they’ve yet to say the smallest and yet most significant phrase to each other: ‘I love you’. Charlie being Charlie, he overthinks it like crazy. Nick has a lot more to worry about: he still hasn’t come out to his long-absent dad and he thinks that Charlie might have an eating disorder.
- Made of a mix of standard tooth-achingly-adorable Heartstopper fare and some very tough subject matter. There’s nothing too heavy but it does include eating disorders, mentions of self-harm, mentions of abusive families and a few instances of biphobia. There’s quite a few call-backs to previous volumes too so I’d definitely recommend reading the first three volumes before this one. I’d recommend reading the first three volumes anyway but I digress.
- Opening scenes had me both laughing and groaning in frustration as both Nick and Charlie try to pluck up the courage to say ‘I love you’ before Nick has to go away on holiday. This includes some scenes that could have come right out of Looney Tunes for how exaggerated and funny they were. While this is definitely one of the heavier volumes in terms of subject matter, this doesn’t lack for funny moments.
- The best (and most painful) thing about the story is that it makes it very clear that being in a loving relationship doesn’t immediately solve all problems. It also takes the approach that being completely dependent on one person, however wonderful they may be, for support isn’t healthy nor will make any mental health problems go away. Mental health is an issue only the sufferer can resolve and it’s the role of everyone else to offer support, not resolve it for them. That fact was very well represented in this book, as is eating disorders and what being an inpatient in a psychiatric ward is like (there’s no straitjackets or evil doctors here – just an overstretched health service trying its best).
- Includes a lot more full page illustrations, especially in the second part of the book which is told mostly through journal entries and over a longer time period than usual. It never feels like they’re skimming over some of the darker scenes, though. It shows as much as we need to in order to get the message that things are not going well.
- Offers up more creative ways to express the characters’ emotions through artistic flourishes. For instance, in one scene, a moment when everything falls apart is excellently illustrated by a page shredding itself to pieces. There’s a great visualisation of intrusive thoughts as well and some great expressions that show a lot without being over the top.
- Not just Nick and Charlie that get some good character moments but also Charlie’s siblings: Oliver and Tori. Tori, in particular, was wonderfully supportive and had some moments that got a big cheer out of me. The ‘Paris Squad’ get some good moments too and we get a few hints about the issues they’re facing behind the scenes e.g. Darcy’s family and Elle being unable to see her grandparents. They also provide some good background humour. I think my particular favourite was Tao at the ice rink. The readers also finally get to see Nick’s dad, as well as Nick’s extended family. Unfortunately, David is still there and still being a pain. I kind of hope we get some character development on him soon. He serves as a good bad guy in this volume but I’m hoping for a bit more depth in future volumes.
- A great selection of extras at the back. The social media posts between Tao and Charlie made me laugh and the extra mini-comic tied very neatly with the main comic. Not to mention, it was incredibly cute.
- Lovely addition to the Heartstopper series, as expected. Nick and Charlie go through a lot in this volume but this doesn’t lack for cute moments. Nor does it lack for some awesome moments. I was so glad to read that there’s going to be a fifth volume. I cannot get enough of these two!
Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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