Heartstopper (S1)

Alice Oseman crushes it again.


Ella Thompson

4/27/20224 min read

I’ve been an Oseman-verse stan for several years and it’s such a rare thing to see an artist truly in control of all aspects of their work - we can only hope the same thing from the upcoming Percy Jackson series. Not only is Oseman a graphic novelist and book author, but they also wrote the adaptation of their acclaimed graphic novel Heartstopper. She was a huge part of the casting process for the show and was frequently on set, a place we don’t frequently see the writer. Placing a huge amount of importance on race and sexual diversity, every work from Oseman is refreshing and feel-good.

This show went beyond my expectations - an age-appropriate cast written like 15-year-olds, animations alluding to the graphic novel, chemistry. If you haven’t read the series, definitely do! She’s been writing this series and other novels since her teens so it’s evolved a lot over time, and Oseman masterfully adapts their own work. There are just enough similarities and necessary cuts or substitutions to stay true to itself and there’s never a lull. The first episode mostly laid out the bare bones, but once I reached the second episode I got that good feeling in my stomach. We’ve got drama, we’ve got cringe, we’ve got comedy, we’ve got gay crisis, and it’s a joy to watch.

We’re getting shows with more and more diversity as time goes on; however, this show is next level. The lead characters are gay, bisexual, trans, and British (I stole this info from Twitter). This is also a pattern reflected in all of Oseman’s books and in reality. These characters have depth and their sexualities and gender identities have importance, but that’s not all there is to them. It’s real - it’s what makes the graphic novel series so appealing, and it’s why I couldn’t stop watching this show. LGBTQIA+ teens are just being themselves.

Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) play our lead couple - Charlie having been outed the previous year and Nick his seat partner at school this year. It’s clear there’s some kind of connection, but Charlie’s best token-straight friend Tao (William Gao) worries he’s falling for a straight rugby lad. Meanwhile, their friend Elle (Yasmin Finney) is attending the girl’s school for the first time, the previous year of school a nightmare after coming out as a trans girl, where she meets Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) - a low-key lesbian couple.

Character Isaac (Tobie Donovan) replaces Aled from the written version - interested to see what this means, but Isaac was a stunner in this. “I wanna believe in romance” had me rolling. It’s absolutely freakish how Tori, played by Jenny Walser, is so well cast. And Kit Connor? Terrifying how he looks exactly like the illustrated Nick Nelson. Olivia Colman plays Nick’s mother Sarah, one of my favorite characters in the series. I’m hopeful for season two because I would love to see Colman in that dinner scene.

One of the most crucial moments in the series is Nick coming to terms with himself. Kit Connor’s performance pulls you straight in - he’s confused, he’s scared, but he’s honest with Charlie, something Charlie hasn’t experienced yet in a relationship. The entire bit of him running to Charlie’s house in the rain and opening up to him is so, so real. Another iconic bit is the Tara and Darcy public kiss - to the heart soaring “Clearest Blue” by CHVRCHES, doing what they did in Elite for this Lesbian Moment. All the pairings in this series are very sweet and leave you with a positive feeling; friendship groups are super gay; they keysmash. It’s cool that so many people are getting to see this story in such a widespread way, especially as someone who’s been following it a long time.

The crux of this series isn’t the romantic relationships, but the friendships. Oseman emphasizes the importance of a support system and not isolating yourself. It’s okay to take the L when you’ve got people to back you up. Tao is protective of Charlie to a fault, and while that ultimately leads to conflict it also shows the level of care and trust. Tori and Charlie are siblings, but you can see how much she looks out for him. Elle has felt very ostracised, but her friends support her from a distance and eventually, she’s able to make friends with Tara and Darcy. Mr. Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade) was there for Charlie, waiting for him to open up to him while he was being bullied.

Nick, Adidas and Vans king, on the other hand, realizes that maybe he doesn’t have the best support system in place. He’s very close with his mom, and she tells him that he’s more himself around Charlie than any of his school friends - not to mention how some of the school friends are quite racist and homophobic. Once he cuts himself off from this toxic group and seeks a more supportive and open group, specifically Tara and Darcy, things really change for him. You can see how much more comfortable he is - how what you surround yourself with impacts your mindset and how you view yourself.

Of course, romantic relationships are important in Heartstopper. Inexperienced teenagers and all the awkward, sweet moments - and sometimes the ugly, not-so-sweet ones. Charlie is clearly a very anxious person, often immediately blaming himself (partly a result of the bullying he faced the previous school year). Tara isn’t prepared for the pushback by her peers when she and Darcy go public with their relationship. Not everything is positive, but in the end, it’s satisfying because there are other people caring for these characters - there’s always hope.


Alice Oseman herself is aromantic-asexual, which has greatly inspired the journey for the aromantic-asexual lead of their newest novel Loveless. On October 18th, their novel I Was Born For This comes out in the US - starring Angel Rahmi, a Muslim girl and superfan of the band The Ark, and Jimmy, a gay trans man and lead singer of The Ark. She’s also written novels and novellas that feature characters from the Heartstopper universe. None of these use characters’ identities as just a plot point or as their only plot point. Writing people as just people is half the appeal and good feeling from the Oseman-verse.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see adaptations of Loveless or I Was Born For This in the future. I’d trust Oseman with anything at this point, and she deserves a long, relaxing break after crunching out so much content.