LGBT, Mystery/Thriller, YA Contemporary Fiction

My Review: Ace of Spades: by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Publish Date: June 1st, 2021
Number of Pages: 432 Pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre(s): YA Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 2.5 Stars

I hate how they have the power to kill my future, kill me. They treat my Black skin like a gun or a grenade or a knife that is dangerous and lethal, when really it’s them. The guys at the top powering everything.

– Faridah Àbíké-Íyídé, “Ace of Spades”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

~~~

Ace of Spades is a whirlwind of a story once you really get into the thick of things…it’s about two black students who are being targeted by an anonymous online presence who goes by the name “Aces” at a prestigious private school. They have no idea why this faceless enemy is targeting them specifically, but what they do know is that they know all their dirty secrets and aren’t afraid to put it all out there for the world to see, thus putting their futures in grave danger…

This book has gotten a lot of praise and exposure on bookstagram and all over social media ever since it came out over the summer of 2021, and I’ll admit that the comparison of “Get Out” meets “Gossip Girl” really had me interested to see what the hype is all about. Plus, I’m a strong advocator for how representation matters and wanting to hear different voices in books and expanding my perspective of other people’s lives that are different than my own. I am a white CIS male, and while I know I will never fully understand the struggles of being black in America, especially a black queer male, but I can honestly say I felt like this book gave me a good idea! The social issues that are explored in this story are a definite highlight that a lot of us can definitely relate to in some way, shape, or form and the characters feel much more fleshed out and dynamic as more is revealed to their character and personal sense of morality.

While the initial set up and beginning of the book were good enough to draw you in, I felt the midpoint really dropped the ball and really slowed down for me…I mean, I really struggled to stay interested through a good chunk of it and even considered putting this book on my DNF stack on several occasions. Heck, I even tried bribing some of my coworkers at the bookstore to read it for me and just spoil it all for me! Not exactly a good thing for any book, lesbehonest…however, my curiosity to find out who was behind it all was what kept me going to be able to finish the story. It obviously won out in the end, and I can’t say it disappointed me either!

While the midpoint was slow, once I got to page 200 I think, that was when the mystery really began to get juicier and it was a much faster and engaging book. The whole situation begins to be revealed as something much bigger and sinister than anyone could imagine, and even I found myself with freakin’ chills running up my arms when certain things happen to the characters, like with certain students or even faculty members. I found the ending to be very satisfactory even if it also felt a little rushed, but I also think that’s okay because by then the authors message and lesson for the reader is loud and clear about issues like systematic racism, classism, and even the struggles of being a POC LGBT+ youth in America today.

Like I said, when you get further into the book where the plot becomes more significant and characterization moves to the passenger seat; sex, lies, murder, secrets, white supremacy, and the ongoing battle of taking down racism make this quite a wicked ride of a story that somehow even has some heartwarming softer moments of both family, friendship, and love that make this even a more well rounded story!

~~~

All you need to know is… I’m here to divide and conquer. Like all great tyrants do.”

– Faridah Àbíké-Íyídé, “Ace of Spades’

What I Liked:

  1. The Representation! One reason I picked this book up was because it’s not a bad thing to broaden your horizons and try to listen to different voices in literature. We all know the argument that representation matters, and I can say this book provides someone like me a great visual on what it’s like to be black and dealing with racism, and even to be black and queer and dealing with the system being against you just because of the color of your skin. It’s not the type of story I usually go for, and for that is why I wanted to try something new.
  2. The Character Development! Chiamaka and Devon both have such amazing character development as the story progresses and they deal with other issues besides a cyber bully. I especially liked Chiamaka’s chapters and her as a character in general because she,at start off as the typical queen b, Blair Waldorf HBIC, but she becomes so much more as you get closer to her.
  3. The Social Commentary/Theme! It’s been said already in this review, but I thought the author showed the struggles of dealing with racism, classism, and even homophobia all incredibly well, and it certainly helped someone who’s not facing the same struggles as they face to better understand it and hopefully learn from it as we move forward!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Extremely Slow Midpoint…I’m sorry, but that midpoint almost killed the book for me! I was just so bored, and I kept putting this book down for others because I just couldn’t get myself to read it most days. I almost put it in my DNF stack, but I hate doing that and really did want to find out who was behind it all.

Conclusion:

Overall, Ace of Spades was crazy and twisted YA thriller that also has an incredibly interesting take on systematic racism, white supremacy, and plenty of other social issues that are so incredibly important, ESPECIALLY with all that has happened in the last year and a half pertaining to those specific issues and what plenty of POC citizens still deal with today.

I will never fully know the struggle of being black in America, that is a privilege that I am aware of, but I wanted to read this as a way to help spread the message of how important it is for stories like this to be heard, and for writers of color who are willing to put this sort of material out there for us to read, to enjoy and hopefully also to learn and understand from their perspective. Those are their stories, and we should want to hear them!

I would’ve rated this book higher, but the slow midpoint is why I’m not giving it a higher rating. None of the social importance is really revealed until later in the story, and I really did struggle and almost not bother to finish this book, but let’s also take into consideration that this is also the author’s debut novel, which that in itself makes it an impressive story too! I also usually don’t read this type 0f story, so I’m sure there are plenty of others who will especially enjoy this one!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, Fantasy, LGBT

My Review: Iron and Fire (Silk and Steel #2): by Ariana Nash

*Kindle Edition*
Publish Date: April 19th, 2019
Number of Pages: 411 Pages
Publisher: Crazy Ace Publishing
Genre(s): Fantasy, LGBT, Erotica

***Warning! This review contains spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Silk & Steel – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

Because…’ he said, ‘in the one place I expected to die, you gave me a reason to live.

– Ariana Nash, “Iron & Fire”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Alliances are forged and broken, friendships shattered, and despite the odds stacked against them, two hearts collide in this explosive sequel to Silk & Steel.

From his mother’s cage to a human one, but Lysander’s captors are the least of his concerns. Rumors of a monstrous bronze dragon ripple through human camps, a dragon tearing great holes in the world as though searching for something… or someone.

It’s just a matter of time before the bronze chief, Dokul, finds Lysander and makes good on his promises. And should he find him, Lysander knows Dokul will not be merciful.

Amidst the greatest of elven victories, Eroan failed. Failed his people, failed himself, and failed the dragon who saved him. But he will not falter. The dragonkin are in disarray, there will never be a greater opportunity to strike. Eroan Ilanea will not fail his people again.

But when rumors of the dragon prince’s survival reach him, he must choose: Fight for his people or fight for the prince who nobody thought to save?

***

***Contains adult themes, triggering content, a bisexual elf, and a gay dragon shifter.***

~~~

Oh boy!

This book got even better than the first book; no second book syndrome in sight!

The story continues right after how the previous book ended, and what heartache we must face as Lysander and Eroan were tragically separated and Eroan later believes he sent the dragon shifter to his death with the humans. But really, the Dragon lord, Dokul, knows he’s still alive and is after him still.

Again, I’m shocked how much I enjoy this story because it’s a gay romance Game of Thrones—Gay of Thrones?—and the sexual tension and overall development between them and their relationship is done so spectacularly well, It was by far the biggest driving force that kept my eyes glued to the page and seeing what possibly happened next. I loved it whenever they reunited and was sad whenever they got separated again and again.

The worldbuilding more or less stayed the same, not much really changed in that regard, but the world still remained so brutalistic and violent and harsh as everyone is doing whatever is necessary to come out on top of this game of thrones. We have Lysander’s brother Akiem popping up and causing destruction whenever he appears, Dokul and Mirann are also still like a dragon-shifter version of Cersei and Tywin Lannister, and Seraph is still Eroan’s best friend and kind of being like an elven Arya in her way too.

Lysander continues to be the MVP of these books, but also the one who unfortunately gets the most abuse out of the characters…like, holy moly does he really get put through the wringer, and my heart aches for him because deep down he really just wants to find a place to belong and not feel like a waste of space. He feels that with Eroan and has such a deep connection with him, but of course the forbidden aspect of their romance makes that plenty complicated too. BUT they really fight for their relationship and did what they can, plus there was a ton more steam and spice between them this time too!

~~~

What is this thing between us?

Eroan’s chin rubbed his head and when he spoke, his voice rumbled through Lysander. ‘It is everything.

– Ariana Nash, “Iron & Fire”

What I Liked:

  1. The Sexual Tension Between Lysander & Eroan! There was way more romance with these two in this second book, which made the overall storyline sooooooooooo much more interesting to me too! The tables have turned and this time it’s Eroan who’s rescuing Lysander and they’re hiding out together, keeping each other warm by staying super close…I’m just so glad this was a bigger focus now that the world has fully been introduced and there’s no need to further explain a bunch of other things, I’m ready for the smut! I’m ready for the romance! I’m ready for the fluff too, because both these tortured beings deserve some freakin’ happiness.
  2. Dragons! I said this in the last review too I’m pretty sure—I don’t feel like looking back to confirm—but I love that this is so dragon-centric! It’s dragon-shifters to be exact, but either way, they’re big scaly flying lizards of death that can breathe fire! Honestly that’s enough for certain readers to want to read this
  3. How Dark and Brutal This Story Gets! The author isn’t afraid to get to the dark and dirty content with how descriptive the more violent scenes can get. There’s also a lot of rape, which is pretty triggering content, there’s also a sex scene that’s actually kind of manipulative and was meant as a tactic to get one character to hate the other, so I know the previous review said this, but this book continues with the similar trigger warnings so there’s my PSA on the subject! It was also pretty unpredictable in a few parts that did somewhat surprise me! It was mainly battles and the big climax, but either way, I always appreciate when something raises my eyebrows and gets me to say “huh, I didn’t see that coming!”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Many Side Characters That I Can’t Remember… I don’t know if it was just me, because I’ve been weird with books lately and my attention span has been suffering as of late, but there were quite a few side characters in this book, and half of the time I was struggling to remember who was who. It was either I wasn’t paying attention as much as I should’ve been or I simply didn’t care because I was more wrapped up in the sexual tension between Eroan and Lysander, but I struggled with this aspect of this book.

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed this book even more than the first one, but mainly because there was a ton more romance this time around. The worldbuilding and history of the world is nothing too special, but if you’re looking for some dark fantasy/smutty M/M romance that’s pretty well written, this is a great option for you! (obviously, just start with the first book obviously)

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, LGBT

My Review: Try (Temptation #1): by Ella Frank

**Kindle Edition**
Publish Date: November 13th, 2013
Number of Pages: 353 Pages
Publisher: Kindle
Genre(s): Erotica, LGBT, Romance

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

‘I want you. Am I supposed to walk away because you’re a man? Maybe. They’ll say yes for sure. But I’m sick of all the questions running around in my head.’ Tate stopped and licked his lips. ‘I want the man who sat down across from me and changed the way I look at the world. And if that’s wrong, then I’m confused because when I’m near you, it feels so damn right.’

– Ella Frank, “Try”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Tryverb: to make an attempt or effort to do something or in this case…someone.

Sex. Logan Mitchell loves it, and ever since he realized his raw sexual appeal at a young age, he has had no problem using it to his advantage. Men and women alike fall into his bed—after all, Logan is not one to discriminate. He lives by one motto—if something interests you, why not just take a chance and try?

And he wants to try Tate Morrison.

Just coming out of a four-year marriage with an ex-wife from hell, a relationship is the last thing on Tate’s mind. He’s starting fresh and trying to get back on his feet with a new job at an upscale bar in downtown Chicago.

The only problem is, Tate has caught the unwavering and unwelcome attention of Mr. Logan Mitchell – a regular at the bar and a man who always gets what he wants.

Night after night Tate fends off the persistent advances of the undeniably charismatic man, but after an explosive moment in the bar, all bets are off as he finds his body stirring with a different desire than his mind.

As arrogance, stubbornness and sexual tension sizzles between the two, it threatens to change the very course of their lives.

Logan doesn’t do relationships. Tate doesn’t do men. But what would happen if they both just gave in and…tried?

~~~

So upon doing a little research on this specific title, it’s funny to see how torn people are about it…Apparently this was the author’s first try at M/M erotic romance when she already has a big following from her M/F titles, and it seems to be that the M/F fans absolutely love it while the more experienced M/M fans aren’t so crazy about it. Personally, I’ve never read anything by this author and I have delved into both straight and gay (emphasis on M/M) erotic romance, and what I say is that it’s written incredibly well and it’s a hot, quick, mindless read.

I can agree with some of the criticism that the dialogue can be somewhat cheesy and spoken in a way in which no male actually talk like unless they’re a poet laureate, but honestly I could look past it for the most part. It’s a romance so sometimes cheesy dialogue is just a par for the course in my opinion. They also just say its M/F written like M/M which I also can kind of agree on. I noticed that for two guys, there’s a lot of crabby getting angry at one and storming off to stew about whatever, but I’m also not saying that only women act that way either, and to think otherwise is a little sexist…I don’t know, I guess like a lot of negative reviews out there, it all comes down to personal preference, and while it’s not the greatest erotic romance I’ve read, I think it still satisfied my need for some hot male-on-male action!

I suppose my only personal qualm about getting into this story is just because I have a wishy-washy preference on “Gay 4 U” type romances. I guess part of me just really questions a story when a guy goes through life straight and never questioning themselves until a specific guy comes along and flips the other guy’s world upside down. I don’t know, I guess that’s how sexuality can work for some, but I also for some reason kind of question the believability of that type of storyline. I guess it depends on the specific story and how the author has it play out. I go into this conversation in my review of Collide (Blackcreek #1) by Riley Hart because that was also a huge part of the story in that book as well.

I feel like other than that, there’s not a whole lot more to say other than just that I thought this book really appealed to my M/M romance need, and that if you’re a fan of that style of erotic romance, I—cringe because of the pun—say to just give it a try and see what you think for yourself!

What I Liked:

  1. Lots Of Greatly Written Smut! The sexual tension was actually pretty freakin’ hot! It built up rather well, and I will say that for this story it was hot to see Tate’s sexual exploration as he came to terms with his attraction to Logan, especially when he’s never been attracted to another man before. All I know is that when Tate gives into temptation and him and Logan start going at it, the spice is abundant!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Very Beginning Is Strange…So the story starts off with Logan on an Airplane and he ends up hooking up with someone who’s not his main love interest, and it’s also with a woman. I get that it shows that Logan is bisexual and that he’s a total manwhore, but part of me felt weird at how this is how a M/M romance begins…It felt out of place and might’ve been just as effective if maybe he met a couple instead and had a three-way later on if not on a plane. The fact that he sleeps with a woman to join the mile high club is just an odd way to start a M/M erotic romance…
  2. The Coupling May Be Seen as Problematic…So we can all agree that consent is very important. One criticism some readers had was how pushy Logan was when he kept hitting on Tate, who at the very beginning of the story said himself that he’s straight. Some reviewers even went to say Logan was being predatory and stalkerish and that he was signaling some major red flags as Tate kept telling him no. I feel like consent was still there because we as the audience know the sex is going to happen eventually, so I find it a little weird when people complain about consent in erotic romance. Don’t we kind of already know the character is interested to some degree, even if they may not admit it right away? Besides this, I can admit it did feel like this relationship had some toxicity to it, but mainly because it was all about sneaking around and having lots of sex. It wasn’t like an actual relationship with an actual future to come later.

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed this M/M book and it really satisfied the interest in reading an erotic romance title. The dialogue had its own ups and downs, but like I said earlier, I liked this book and it was just quick, mindless, and spicy as hell!

I’m surprised there’s six total books in this series, so I’m definitely curious to see how Logan and Tate’s story gets spaced out between that many volumes! I can say I’m reading on to see for myself, and enjoy a lot more steamy sex too!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, LGBT, Romance

My Review: One Time Only (One Time Only #1): by Lauren Blakely

Publish Date: November 18th, 2020
Number of Pages: 350 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): LGBT, Romance, Erotica

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

I shouldn’t do this. I need to stop. I will stop. I swear, I will. I promise. But . . . Not. Quite. Yet.

– Lauren Blakely, “One Time Only”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

A fiery, passionate MM romance novel from #1 New York Times Bestselling author Lauren Blakely…

Ever hear the story about the bodyguard who falls for the rock star?
Yeah, it never ends well.

Each day I remind myself that it’s my job to protect Stone. And nowhere in the job description does it say I should lust after the charismatic, charming rock star.

But every night I spend with him the attraction grows more intense, electric, undeniable.

Until one night in a limo when we combust.

One time only will have to be enough.

Because the mistakes from the past are chasing me.

And If I give in again, I might lose everything.

Good thing I’m strong, determined, and dedicated to resisting him.

But after a close call at his concert, all bets are off.

And in his hotel room, we strike a brand new deal.

One that can’t end well for me, but I do it anyway. Because sometimes you grab hold of the desire. And other times, the desire takes hold of you.

~~~

One Time Only was just a quick, lighter, sexy, and fun novel to enjoy while I’m taking a break from the Fantasy genre! It plays up on the forbidden factor of the bodyguard and the enigmatic rockstar having a hot, secret affair behind closed doors. What I especially liked about this one in particular was how it was a M/M romance with a slow burn, but still had plenty of steamy moments to really enjoy too.

Jackson Pearce is a bodyguard for rockstar, Stone Zenith, and while he’s only worked for the musician for a few months, he’s been in this line of for about five years and absolutely loves it, he wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize his career, not even the sinfully sexy rockstar he watches over! The problem is, there’s an obvious connection there; the lingering looks, the banter, the attraction, it’s all there and only grows more and more the longer they spend time together. Based off the title, you can guess that they give into their urges and agree to one night to get it out of the way so things can go back to normal, but of course, it only leads to more and more. they can’t get enough of each other!

I definitely liked the chemistry between the two men and their relationship as it developed throughout the book. You could really feel the longing they both had for each other as they couldn’t be together, and yes while there was plenty of smutty goodness, there were also softer and more tender moments that make you truly believe they’re right for each other and that this is more than just a sexy fling.

Sure, there’s nothing really new and it feels like any other bodyguard/celebrity client romance trope type of story, but the author still makes it a fun story with her writing and I still think it’s a pretty dang good book for anyone who’s looking for another forbidden romance with the bodyguard, or if you’re looking for another M/M romance in particular!

Did I ever tell you about the rock star who fell for his bodyguard?’

‘Let me guess. Did the bodyguard fall hard for him too?’

‘So damn hard.’

‘Sounds like our love story. And maybe your next song.’

‘It absolutely does.

– Lauren Blakely, “One Time Only”

What I Liked:

  1. The Forbidden-ness of Jackson and Stone’s Relationship! The author plays up the taboo, riskiness of their secret fling and how wrong it is to sleep with the client, so of course that makes all the secret sex they keep having all that much hotter and risque!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Nothing New…If I had one critique, it was just that this wasn’t entirely a memorable book that I will gush about for years to come. Sure, I love that it was a M/M romance, and I enjoyed the forbidden factor like I’m sure I’ve mentioned plenty already in this review, but nothing really stood out to me in terms of characters, storyline, development, not really any of it.

Conclusion:

Overall, One Time Only was a quick and fun read that is a great addition for anyone who wants to enjoy the forbidden bodyguard/celebrity, M/M, and secretly dating romance tropes! It isn’t anything too innovative or unique that makes it really stand out from the many other romance titles out there that fall under these storylines, but it was still very enjoyable nonetheless.

Sometimes mood readers just need a specific storyline like this and are in need of it ASAP, well I can say those of you that fall under that category most likely will enjoy this book in particular. It definitely satisfies in the needs to enjoy those particular tropes

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

graphic novel, LGBT

My Review: Heartstopper (Vol. 2): by Alice Oseman

Publish Date: July 11th, 2019
Number of Pages: 320 Pages
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Genre(s): LGBT, Graphic Novel, YA Fiction

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers from the previous book in this series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of Heartstopper, Volume 1 – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

I Like Charlie Spring! In a romantic way not just a friend way!

– Alice Oseman, “Heartstopper (Vol. 2)”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t.

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself.

~~~

A charming, sweet, and absolutely heartwarming second volume to this warm and lovable story, Heartstopper continues to steal my heart!

These graphic novels are the perfect amount of light-reading and feel-good material to make you believe in true love and happiness in this wild and unpredictable world. I am just so happy that there are stories like this that are so easily available to find for those looking for LGBT+ books to enjoy, and their such a nice change of pace from the heavier and more action-packed fantasy I also read. I know I repeat myself so much on here about this with books like these, but it’s all so true, just call me grateful I guess!

The story continues literally right where we left off in the previous volume that ended on a very dramatic, soap-opera-esque cliffhanger with Nick kissing Charlie at a party, but then freaking out and leaving him behind because of his confusion over his feelings/sexuality. Charlie is crestfallen until Nick meets up with him later to talk and hash things out, and—spoiler but not really—admits he likes Charlie and wants to try being with him. He’s still not sure what his orientation is or what this all means, all he does know is that he enjoys being with him and he wants to act on his feelings that he has!

One complaint I had in the previous volume was how rushed Nick’s revelation was that he wasn’t entirely straight. To me, it just felt rushed or that not enough emphasis was put on it, so I was very happy to see it explored further in this book, and it was nice to see how despite being unsure of himself and what his orientation was, Nick still wanted to be with Charlie and kiss him and be a happy couple with him, even if he wasn’t exactly ready to go public with it.

That brings me into another interesting subject that this graphic novel brought up: dating someone who hasn’t come out or has even fully come to terms with themselves and their sexuality. It’s a slippery slope and both sides in the relationship have so much pressure on their shoulders in figuring it all out. Everyone deserves to come out on their own terms and at their own choosing, but how long until the other one loses patience and can no longer be kept a secret? This issue is handled incredibly well throughout the story, and Charlie somehow becomes an even bigger sweetheart than how he already is with the patience and tenderness he shows Nick as he’s figuring things out. A major highlight for this specific volume indeed! On the other hand, I’m also glad it’s challenge a little bit in one of Charlie’s friends, who thinks Nick is just using him or that it’s some elaborate prank Nick and his friends are pulling on him. It’s a lot of amazing tension that really adds to the story, and really puts a test on Nick and Charlie’s relationship!

The story is character-driven, so the pacing is a little slow at times, but the soft and tender moments definitely make up for it, and before you know it, you’ve finished this volume too and are already online to get the next volume ASAP—guilty!

There are many issues faced in this story so far that are so relatable to anyone in the LGBT+ community who has come out at a young age; the pressures of two people at different points in their lives, friends who question the legitimacy of their relationship and miss them because they don’t spend as much time with them like before, homophobia from people you thought were your friends, and even the whole coming out to your parents and not being sure how they’ll react. It’s a lot, but anyone who’s been in similar situations to these characters understands what it’s like and it just makes the story so real and so relatable; it’s like a voice being heard after being ignored for so long.

…honestly I’m having a proper full-on GAY PANIC.

– Alice Oseman, “Heartstopper (Vol. 2)”

What I Liked:

  1. Nick’s Not Sure What His Sexuality Is! While I’m sure there are a few guys in the queer community who can complain about a guy who they really liked but didn’t really know what his sexuality was, I really liked this storyline for Nick. It was explored a lot more in this second volume and I kind of liked how he still didn’t have a concrete answer, but it didn’t stop him from wanting to be with Charlie and act upon these feelings he had that were a little strange for him, but still felt so right. There’s a kind of beauty in that; not letting the fear of the unknown keeping you from experiencing joy and happiness from something that so obviously makes you feel those emotions!
  2. Charlie Continues To Be so Freakin’ Adorable! I still love how Charlie is this kind, sweet, awkward, shy, and all around lovable guy who just wants to be happy. We’ve all felt like him at some point in our lives, and my heart just warms at how he has such a loyal and strong circle of friends and family who have his back whenever he may need it. He has the strength to move forward on his own, but there’s nothing wrong with having some help from others who care about you.
  3. Friendships Are Tested! Things get a little tense with Charlie and one of his friends at one point in this volume, and to be fair, it’s not entirely unjustified. It comes from a place of love and compassion, and I thought it was a great representation on the theme of friendship that these graphic novels also showcase.
  4. The Representation! Okay, but people are going to love all the queer representation that’s in these books. It feels like there are more gay people than straight people at times, and the fact that there is a nonbinary character along with even having queer POC characters is also great to see! People looking for this specifically in their reading material should pick these up for this reason!
  5. The Scene With Nick & His Mom! So heartwarming and touching, It reminded me of the scene in Love, Simon when Jennifer Garner tells him that he can breathe and be who he wants to be….it’s just something that every kid who remembers the fear of the anticipation of coming out to their parents and not knowing how they’re going to react needs to hear. It may have also been all the pollen in the air lately, but my eyes were freakin’ watering up when I read this scene.
  6. There’s A LOT Of Kissing! Nick and Charlie are such an adorable couple, and even though Nick has quite a few questions about himself, that certainly doesn’t stop him from being with Charlie and enjoying the pleasures of what romantic couples experience. He definitely makes up for lost time, and seems to really like kissing Charlie, which who can blame him when Charlie is just so…Charlie!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Homophobic Bullying…While it’s actually a pretty accurate portrayal of how certain teenagers react towards homosexuality or anything that’s outside the realm of heteronormativity, it’s still just so tiring to see it and the I still continue to hope that one day it goes away—the hatred and exclusion of LGBT+ people—but this has nothing to do with the author including it in her story. For that alone, this conflict works because it’s real and it’s something queer teens—and adults—deal with sometimes on a daily basis! It’s more me putting it on here to say how I just can’t wait for homophobia and hatred of queer people to go away as time moves forward.
  2. It Felt Like Not Much Had Happened…By this point in reading the graphic novels, part of me thought to myself that for how many pages it is, it felt like not a whole lot actually happened, or I just wanted more to happen that what actually did. The pacing can be a little slow, but to be fair, that’s usually the case with character-driven plots much like this one, so it was a little expected. I think it was more along the lines of I just want the story to move even further along, but there are still two more volumes of these books too!

Conclusion:

Overall, I continue to gush about these graphic novels because they’re such an uplifting and seriously adorable story; I know I repeat that word a lot on here, but it’s also the one word I’d use to describe these books if someone asked me! The story continues on and gets better and better as Charlie and Nick grow closer and their bond become stronger.

I’ve got the next volume in this 4-part series, so I can say it’ll be sooner rather than later to when I’ll start that one and include it on my blog too! Stay tuned!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell