If you’re a fan of tropey teen romances and are perpetually on the Internet, you have likely heard of “Heartstopper,” a British webcomic series and graphic novel written by young author Alice Oseman, which has recently been adapted by Netflix. “Heartstopper” follows two teenage boys, Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) and Charlie Spring (Joe Locke), as they navigate first love, coming out, and figuring themselves out. The sincere art style, heartfelt dialogue, and endearing characters stand out in the comics from the very beginning, and bringing those emotions and well-loved characters to the screen was an exciting transition. The eight episode series covers content from the first two book volumes, and fans of the graphic novels and newcomers alike will enjoy this sweet coming-of-age romance.
Oseman played a large part in adapting the show, having written the script, and their influence is clear to see. The show starts off with a strong connection to the original subject matter, with brightly colored visuals and drawn elements that emulate the style of the comics. The animated flowers and leaves at key emotional moments, as well as the comic book-like transitions, captured the energy of the comics perfectly.
Although the emotions and visuals could have been pulled straight from the comics, the plot of the show both successfully stayed true to the comics and still had elements of originality. The plot was well-paced through the show, although fans of the comics may notice some differences in the plot and order of significant moments. Moments of drama were emphasized more heavily in order to create a more complicated dynamic, but it didn’t take away from the plot in any way.
There was more focus on some of the background characters; Tara Jones and Darcy Olsson, played by Corinna Brown and Kizzy Edgell, are featured more as they go through some of the same challenges as Nick and Charlie, like coming out. Their timeline was changed slightly from the comics, and we got to see them become more three-dimensional and complex. This, as well as a focus on Charlie’s friend Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney) and her experience transitioning from the boys’ to the girls’ school, made a nice addition to the general backstory and fleshed out the ensemble of characters.
There were some bigger changes made to the cast as well, one of which was the absence of Charlie’s younger brother, Oliver. Although Charlie’s best friends Elle and Tao Xu (William Gao) still featured heavily in the series, Aled Last, one of Charlie’s friends in the comics, was replaced by Isaac (Tobie Donovan), a quietly supportive friend who observed most of the drama from the sidelines. Oseman, in an interview with Radio Times, noted that Aled was featured in “Radio Silence,” one of her other novels within the “Heartstopper” universe. This meant that he had a fixed storyline that wouldn’t change within the existing canon of the universe. Isaac, however, is a new character whose story could go any direction. His character is completely unique to the show and has some potential for originality within the universe, although he did not receive much focus or standout characterization in this first season.
Another big change was the addition of Imogen (Rhea Norwood), one of Nick’s friends whose addition to the cast created some additional complications. Nick’s rugby friends created more problems, without some named characters from the comic series to support Nick. Although these changes affected the dynamic of the characters and their issues, the overarching sense of heartwarming friendship and joy shone through.
Nick’s process of figuring himself out was one of the highlights of the show. It demonstrated some of the difficulties as well as the joys of figuring oneself out, especially given the lack of bisexual representation in most media. Overall, the entire show was a joy. “I genuinely enjoyed every moment,” says Owen Phillips, a freshman at Franklin. “Even with the characters I don’t like, they still brought an important dynamic to the show that made it a lot more interesting.”
Hopefully, there will be another season of “Heartstopper” that covers some more content and expands on some of the new storylines they created. The later volumes of the comics go deeper into some of Charlie’s struggles with mental health, while other books within the universe, such as “Solitaire,” take a look at some background characters. There may not be room for too much branching out, but it would be interesting to see the development of new characters, some background relationships (hello, Elle and Tao!), or even just handling more difficult topics.
Overall, newcomers to the “Heartstopper” universe and longtime fans alike will enjoy this lighthearted coming-of-age romance. Being able to see queer teenagers represented in a manner that is accessible to viewers of all ages is incredible to see, and for anyone who wants a heartwarming, bingeable show, this is the one to watch.
Anyone looking to read the original content first can find all four volumes of “Heartstopper” on Webtoon, Tapas, or in book form at any nearby libraries or bookstores.