#IMWAYR: Heartstopper, Volume 5!

Hey everyone! The week's been a little wild, but I did the thing I promised I'd do last week—I read a graphic novel!!! And because it was a Heartstopper graphic novel, it was expectedly amazing. So let's talk about it!

Young Adult:


Volume 5

Written and illustrated by Alice Oseman
Graphic novel · 2023
Book 5 of 6 (Vol. 1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · 6 [not released yet])

The only annoying thing about reading Heartstopper is that, to keep this review spoiler-free of the previous books in the series, I can't gush as much about all the things I loved!! Alas. I'll survive.

Heartstopper is still one of the best things I've ever read, and I encourage you to drop by my reviews of book 1 or books 2, 3, and 4 to see a whole lot of excited squealing about what makes this series incredible. I ended up waiting about six months to read this volume of the series, in part because I went through my first breakup in April and it did not lend itself to excitedly reading romance novels. But I was finally brave enough to pick this book up, and I've got some thoughts to share with you all.

One of the very difficult things about romantic relationships is balancing yourself as an independent individual, with yourself as a partner. And I think it's especially hard when you're young, and you don't really know who you are yet, and you don't really want to know because GEEZ discovering yourself sounds like a lot of work, and it becomes a little too easy to lean on your partner and relationship for happiness. (Been there, done that.) Heartstopper could very easily fall into this trap of emphasizing relationships over individuality, considering that it is a romance series. But Alice Oseman isn't going to let that happen. This book gives its characters space to start finding themselves, whether that involves college decisions, leadership roles, or creative expression. One character has a particularly moving journey of being able to support other people after having been someone who received support for so long—one scene here was so incredibly touching, my gosh. And then at the same time these characters are becoming themselves as human beings, they are also able to maintain relationships that are loving, and affectionate, and even devoted. I think love is about becoming yourself alongside someone else who is also becoming themself, and cheering each other on, and I think Heartstopper gets that. Being an individual and a partner aren't antithetical, even if it sometimes feels like it—they're two sides of the same coin.

I think what's fascinating about Heartstopper is that Alice Oseman takes exactly one liberty (if we're cynical enough to call it that) with a realistic story—and that is how deeply and surely these characters love each other. And then she sugarcoats literally nothing about their personal lives, and has them navigate all kinds of fears and challenges inside and outside of their relationships, just like we all do. This series is inherently optimistic and hopeful, but not idealistic. But I think it shows how a relationship built on a strong foundation of love can both survive obstacles, and make those obstacles easier to face.

I also have to really talk around this next point to avoid spoilers—in the vaguest terms possible, I really appreciate how this book gives space for different relationships to look different. We all have our own preferences for how we want romantic love to look, or if we even want romantic love, and Oseman is deliberate about including all these perspectives in the book, whether as full-fledged characters and arcs or even just as quick asides during a conversation. Have you ever read one of those books where the characters' dialogue is really stilted because the author is trying to make a point and have them say specific things? They could learn a thing or two from Oseman, who I think does intend to include specific comments in the story, but then embeds them so seamlessly into the dialogue that you'd barely notice. It's so sneaky—I love it.

Having recently learned from experience that our first loves are often not our last, I'm not sure if, in real life, the relationship at the center of this story would be the one. I think love is sort of about two things—how well your traits click with someone else's, and then how intentional you are about working on a healthy relationship—and I think the characters in the story have the second one down pat, but I wonder about the first. But there's a million and one books that tackle the first of those things—crushing on somebody and dreaming of the perfect partner and going on that date where everything is magical and you feel so connected and seen. We need some books that focus on the second part, and that's what Heartstopper is—it's a guide for how to actually build a healthy relationship when that right person does come along.

Alice Oseman has shared that they've experienced burnout while working on this series, and I don't want to put pressure on them to solve every single challenge of romance in volume 6—they've already given so much to us readers, and it's our job to figure out these big questions of life for ourselves, rather than looking to authors (or partners!) for magical quick-fix solutions. But even so, reading Oseman's work, I know that they are doing their absolute darndest, and they've gotten closer to the answers about love than anyone else I've seen. Something tells me they'll have things to say in volume 6—and I know those things will be worth listening to.

The Kidlit Lovers' Meetup!

If you read kidlit (or even just stop by kidlit blogs like this one) and want to meet other bloggers and readers, don't forget about the second Kidlit Lovers' Meetup I'm hosting, scheduled for Wednesday, July 24, 2024 from 4-5 PM Pacific / 5-6 PM Mountain / 6-7 PM Central / 7-8 PM Eastern! Click here to RSVP for the meetup, or click here to learn more about the meetups in general.

I hope you'll be able to join us!!

Bookish thoughts:

Two years ago, I read an incredible, deeply psychologically insightful book—a YA novel called Yolk, written by Mary H.K. Choi. And then today, I got my usual email from Apple News with articles to read, and one of them was by Choi herself. It's a beautifully written article about her adult autism diagnosis, and I highly recommend you check it out here.

That's all for now—have a restful, enjoyable week, and see you soon! ✨✨


  1. Thanks for the wonderful review. It shows how deep graphic novel stories can really be. I'm glad
    you 're enjoying this series so much.

  2. Love does make the world go round, doesn't it, but as you wrote, it's so varied that one must try to be flexible. I like that you noted & praised the varying perspectives, Max. Thanks for the great review!


  3. I have only read the first in this series and loved it almost as much as you did.
    Love is certainly complex. I like to think that there are probably many people who could be just right for you. I believe ideally, that good relationships are about helping each other become the best people we can be. That said, as someone who has been in a relationship with someone for 49 years, I can attest that maintaining that balance between "yourself as an independent individual, with yourself as a partner" is always hard!

  4. This sounds like an amazing series that addresses the complexities of relationships.

  5. I think it's interesting when people are diagnosed as being on the spectrum as adults. I wonder if it makes them feel good that there is an explanation for how they've been feeling all their lives or if matters to get a diagnosis at all. I'll check out the article.

  6. I am terrible at finishing a series, so I only read the first two in the Heartstopper series but loved both. I am so relieved that it continues to be thoughtful and beautifully done. I have bought SO MANY copies of this series because I simply couldn't keep them on the shelves of my classroo library the last 2 years. And some of the readers who fall very very hard don't want to bring the books back, which I both understand and endorse. Keep the books! I'll buy another set! I laughed (it was one of those rueful laughs) at your line, "discovering yourself sounds like a lot of work." Yes! And ugh! Why does it have to be so much work?!


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