Mismatched British schoolboys fumble their way toward romance.
Charlie is a waifish year 10 (equivalent to ninth grade) who is popular despite some taunting and social backlash for coming out at Truham Grammar School for Boys. Year 11 schoolmate Nick is a red-blooded rugby player with a warm demeanor and hunky exterior. When the two are paired in a vertical classroom experiment, Charlie develops an immediate crush on presumably straight Nick, and Nick craves more and more time with Charlie both on campus and off. As the two veer toward a mutual romance, they individually struggle through wondering how to make it come to fruition, questioning if it’s even possible, and deciding whether a first boy-boy crush is a definite proclamation of gayness. Organic frame borders and fragmented panels underscore the respective action on the spreads (sweet and tender moments, run-ins with homophobic jerks) and prevent the visual graphics from going aesthetically stale. Handwritten text reinforces the lens of humanity through which Oseman spins this to-be-continued story. Crisp, clear-cut font is reserved for tech moments when back-and-forth texting is the storytelling vehicle. Charlie and Nick appear white, and there is ethnic diversity in the supporting cast. Fans of Oseman’s debut, Solitaire (2015), will enjoy this story that centers on protagonist Tori’s younger brother, Charlie; however, this volume stands alone and will engage readers new to her work.
An adorable diary of love’s gut punches. (Graphic novel. 12-16)
When lanky, openly gay Charlie Spring, 14, is seated next to burly rugby lad Nick Nelson, 16, in a new “vertical class group” at their English all-boys school, they form a friendship that appears unlikely to those around them, quickly becoming a central part of each other’s lives. Charlie, having recently realized that the boy he thought might be his boyfriend is just using him for casual make-out sessions, starts falling for Nick, though it’s presumed that Nick is straight. Nick, meanwhile, starts to examine how he feels about Charlie, and what that means about how he sees himself. A leisurely pace and focus on everyday events—school, sports, hangouts—allows the characters’ relationship to develop in a natural, relatable way. Art by Oseman (I Was Born for This) is loosely drawn in black, white, and a cool gray-green that fits the story’s quiet, casual vibe; facial expressions, particularly Nick’s, effectively communicate what the characters find difficult to say. While the familiar-feeling school romance doesn’t break new ground, it does deliver a warm, comfortable story of fledgling love starring two shippable leads who will be familiar to Oseman fans. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 12–up. (May)
Gr 8 Up–Young love—with all its awkwardness, tenderness, and raw emotions—blossoms between two teenagers who appear to be worlds apart. The only openly gay boy in his British all-boys grammar school, sensitive Charlie was bullied when he came out, but things have settled down, and he is seeing someone: Ben, who hooks up with Charlie but isn't out and won't tell anyone about their relationship. When Charlie is assigned to sit next to Nick, he begins falling for the older boy. He's sure it's hopeless—popular "rugby lad" Nick seems to have more in common with Charlie's tormentors. But Nick, who has always assumed he was straight, begins to question his identity—and to realize how bewildering and wonderful love can be. Based on a webcomic, this graphic novel centers on two secondary characters from Oseman's debut prose novel, Solitaire, set before the events of this story. The sweet, two-color, manga-inspired art seems simplistic at first glance, but detailed expressions convey the boys' longing, uncertainty, and joy. Quirky dialogue (with some profanity) and a font that mimics handwriting add to the adorkability factor. VERDICT Realistic yet uplifting, this tale of self-discovery will make readers' hearts skip a beat as they root for Charlie and Nick.—Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT