Alice Oseman. Heartstopper. Solitaire. Radio Silence. They’re some of the words being thrown around on the net a lot this year. I’m sure everyone’s heard of them, especially what Heartstopper is- a comic series about a gay teenager called Charlie Spring who falls in love with his best friend, Nick Nelson.
Heartstopper in particular has been groundbreaking as it is an unconventional queer story; it refused to follow stereotypes often associated with LGBTQ+ couples. Many fans cherish heartstopper the most as it is simply a pure, heartfelt show. While it is about queer teens, it is portrayed the same way any heterosexual romance would be. It gave the community the romance they’ve wanted forever- one where a gay couple does not face constant hardships. One of the most fundamental themes in Alice’s work is showing that teenagers can be themselves, and most importantly happy, regardless of what their gender/sexuality may be. It explores the process of not just realizing that one isn’t heterosexual, which is challenging on its own, but figuring out how to come to terms with it. It also deals with other issues such as homophobia, bullying, and eating disorders, and depicts the characters realistically overcoming each of them. It also shows teenagers what healthy relationships are supposed to look like.
However, Alice’s other works have done an equally great job in their representation.
One of my favourites is Loveless, which follows the story of a college freshman, Georgia, who’d never dated anyone. She spends a lot of her time believing that she, too, could fall in love. But she finally starts to accept that there IS something different about her, when it comes to romance- that she is aromantic asexual (aroace). It has some amount of teenage drama but otherwise is a very heart-wrenching, emotional book to read. As someone who does identify as asexual, the story, especially the main character, were things I could relate to. There is barely any aroace representation in media, and this book gives many aroace fans a sense of comfort. This is especially true in Indian media, where LGBTQ+ representation has been improving, but there is no depiction of people who identify as aromantic or asexual. Loveless shows you how finding a partner isn’t the only significant thing. There’s a lot more to cherish, such as your friends, particularly the ones you meet every day. You don’t realize how much they mean to you until they’re not around. But this is imperative for everyone to understand, regardless of their sexual orientation. The book has also helped other fans realize what they may identify as.
Alice’s other book I was born for this places a special focus on singer/band fanbases and their tendency to get obsessed with the band in question. This is shown through the point of view of both the fan and the celebrity. There’s a scene where one of the members of the fictional band defends himself against rumours of dating his bandmate. This is also one of my favourite parts of the book. It’s so common to ship celebrities in real life to the point where the line between what the fan assumes to be real and reality starts to get blurred, and the celebrity isn’t even able to address these rumours.
Solitaire delves right into the mind of a rather pessimistic teenager and her struggles at school. Fans describe it to be a serious book and it deals with the mental health of teenagers too- something barely even acknowledged in Indian society. It’s also one of the rare books with asexual characters, which makes it lovable.
And last but not the least, Radio Silence. One of the main characters, Frances, convinces herself that keeping up her grades and academic achievements is all that matters. She ultimately finds it difficult to form proper friends at school, until she meets Aled. Something I loved is that Aled and Frances weren’t pushed into a romantic relationship just because they’re a boy and a girl, and their friendship isn’t perfect- they get into misunderstandings like all teenagers do. The book talks about the importance of following your passion, even if it means pursuing a non-conventional degree. This too is rarely acknowledged in Indian society even though the types of courses in college have diversified vastly. But the main message is to understand and to listen to your voice. It’s okay to not have everything figured out, including your future, because you’ll get there eventually.