Storytime with Sophie: Heartstopper

The age-old debate between book and movie comes alive again with the Heartstopper graphic novel, and subsequent Netflix original series. This show has been marketed as a “boy meets boy” story and proclaims diversity and inclusivity in its cast and characters. 

The main cast comprises Nick, Charlie, Elle, Tao, Darcy and Tara. Charlie and Nick are the main focus of the show and graphic novel, with their love story taking precedence over the other pairings. In the start of the series, Nick Nelson is in grade 11, or tenth grade for those not from the land of Brits, and Charlie is grade 10. 

The two boys go to the same all-boys school and share a homeroom. Each boy is part of a different social circle, with Nick playing rugby, the British equivalent for a football jock, and having no shortage of friends. Charlie is more quiet and openly gay at the predominantly straight school. The two hit it off when Nick encourages Charlie to join the rugby team and a friendship blossoms. 

The side characters are explored, but it is obvious who the main focus is meant to be. Elle and Tao are both Charlie’s best friends, and a relationship between the two is suggested. Elle is a trans woman who used to attend the same all-boys school with Charlie, but left to go to the neighboring girls school. Tao is the somewhat temperamental straight friend, who is very protective over Charlie. Tara and Darcy both attend the all girls school and befriend Elle. These two are in a relationship and both identify as lesbian.  

The original graphic novel originated on Webtoon and can still be read online for free. The published graphic novel came out in 2018, with the next volumes following the release date. Currently there are four volumes out, with fans anticipating a fifth. 

The Netflix show came out on April 22, 2022, with a total of eight episodes of about 30 minutes each. The show is very similar to the graphic novel, with very few differences. 

Those who are big fans of the show likely have nostalgic ties to the graphic novel. Someone who read the comics when they were coming out likely would have a deeper attachment to the show and concept than someone who decides to watch it on a whim. 

The concept as a whole has some flaws and strengths. The diversity of the graphic novel/show sets a new standard for modern day media. The concept of a realistically diverse show is less of a phenomenon and becoming more of the expectation, and Heartstopper is taking steps in the right direction. Some aspects of the show are not very accurate to real life, however, with some dialogue being not representative of teenagers. 

Trying to deduce which form is definitely better is based predominantly on personal preference. Some may prefer the layout of a graphic novel and the focus being on Charlie and Nick. Contrastingly, the Netflix original may appeal to those who struggle with a comic type layout, and prefer to see the progression in real-time. 

Heartstopper may be the first time many LGBTQ+ teenagers and adults see an openly gay show that is marketed and advertised as such. Alice Oseman created a slew of characters and an environment that is easy to lose yourself in. Heartstopper can be watched or read online, and potential fans can develop their own stance on which trumps which.