After reading the first two volumes of this series back in June, I knew that I had to finish it as soon as possible. So, at the end of August, I got copies of volumes 3 and 4 to finish before the end of the month. I’ve read Solitaire, so already knew that things were going to get a lot less fun for Charlie and Nick. I just hoped that it wouldn’t get too bad. All I could do was find out for myself.
One of the greatest things about this series of graphic novels is that the relationship between Charlie and Nick is presented in the same way that heterosexual relationships have been represented. Their teen romance is that awkward and sappy kind of thing that has filled YA books for years. I can’t say that the books are subtle but I guess that’s not really the point. They are here to serve a purpose and they fulfil that easily.
In terms of the story, we pick up where we left off in volume 2. Charlie and Nick are dating but they haven’t really told anyone yet. In volume 3, the couple joins their friends on a school trip to Paris. The boys are sharing a room with Charlie’s friends Tao and Aled, which means having to keep their hands off each other. Volume 4 sees Charlie and Nick separated during the Summer holidays. We also start to see that Charlie is suffering from some troubling mental health issues. Can Nick help convince him to talk to someone about it?
It is volume 4 that sees the books really focus on mental health but it’s been a theme for all of the books so far. It has slowly started to emerge that Charlie is hiding some deep-seated issues regarding food and has been suffering in silence for a while. It’s handled very delicately in the book and there is plenty of great guidance for anyone who might also be suffering. There are some important conversations in the book for everyone to take comfort in.
As well as the obvious, the books also deal with issues surrounding sexuality very well. Throughout these volumes, Alice Oseman has health with Nick’s coming out very delicately. There has never been any pressure on him to reveal his sexuality to everyone and it has always been under his own steam. Charlie is understanding as are his close friends. It is so important that these books show such an empowering and positive experience of coming out because it could help so many young people.
Even though I still feel a little too old for these books, I can definitely see the appeal. This is a sweet love story that also has some deeper elements. It is also highly relevant and timely. There are so many role models within these pages and so much representation. I do think it lacks subtlety with regards to the message but it also doesn’t matter. This series is doing so much good that I’m just glad it exists.