How Netflix’s Heartstopper Fits Into Alice Oseman’s Book Universe

New Netflix series Heartstopper is adapted from a webcomic and graphic novel that spins characters off from Alice Oseman’s debut graphic novel Solitaire. Here’s how they connect.

Heartstopper Charlie and Nick
Photo: Netflix

Netflix’s Heartstopper is a faithful adaptation of Alice Oseman’s web comics, doubtless thanks to the fact that Oseman herself adapted the series for screen. Fans of the comics – about a burgeoning gay romance between two British secondary school boys – needn’t worry about their favourite moments having been missed on TV. The important scenes from the first two volumes, from the ink explosion to Charlie and Nick’s day in the snow, Harry’s party, the birthday bowling, the disastrous cinema outing, the school concert and more, are up there on screen alongside new moments showcasing popular supporting characters Elle, Tao, Tara and Darcy.

Writer Oseman, director Euros Lyn (Doctor Who, Happy Valley, Cucumber, His Dark Materials) and the production team have created such a loyal version of the source material that if viewers just watch the Netflix show, they’re not missing out on any vast backstory or details. If however, some viewers are inspired to go back into Oseman’s original books and comics, here’s how the fictional world fits together.

How Many Heartstopper Books Are There?

There are currently four volumes of graphic novel Heartstopper, with the fifth and final volume due to be published in February 2023. Oseman’s debut novel Solitaire is about Tori Spring, the older sister of Charlie who appears as a background character in Heartstopper, as played by Jenny Walser. As Oseman makes clear on their website, Solitaire has an entirely different tone to Heartstopper and deals with difficult and mature topics. There’s no need to read Solitaire to follow Heartstopper.

A Heartstopper novella called Charlie and Nick was also published in 2020 (after first coming out as a Solitaire e-book in 2015, along with This Winter, which follows the character of Tori Spring). There’s also a Heartstopper colouring book out, and a Yearbook containing bonus material coming out in hardback in October 2022.

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Which Heartstopper Books Does the TV show cover?

The eight half-hour episodes in the Netflix series cover events from the first two Heartstopper volumes. If recommissioned, a further series will presumably adapt the next two volumes, leaving the fifth and final volume (to be published in February 2023) for a future series or special.

Where You Can Read the Heartstopper Webcomics

Oseman’s webcomics, as published in volumes by Hachette, are available to read on Webtoon, Tapas and Tumblr.  

In What Order To Read The Books

There’s obviously no need to read all of the books if you’re only interested in Heartstopper, but for completists, Solitaire was published years before Heartstopper but chronologically takes place in the middle of Heartstopper Volume Four, starting after the events of Solitaire novella This Winter. So if you wanted the story strictly chronologically, you’d have to read the first three Heartstopper volumes and half of volume four, then read Solitaire before finishing volume four, though that seems an unwise way to proceed.

Oseman’s four standalone novels (Solitaire, Radio Silence, I Was Born For This and Loveless) each focus on different characters, so can be read in any order, but there are connections between them. For instance, the character of podcaster Aled in Radio Silence also appears in Heartstopper, and I Was Born For This is the story of British pop-rock group The Ark, which also exists in the same world as Heartstopper, but can obviously be read independently of Oseman’s other comics and books. Loveless is the story of 18-year-old Georgia’s journey to understanding her identity as aromantic and asexual, and stands independently of the rest of Oseman’s work.

Heartstopper is available to stream now on Netflix.