Heartstopper, Book #4
Heat Factor: The only sex is the stuff Charlie’s mom made up in her head
Character Chemistry: Wanting to be there but not knowing how
Plot: Charlie acknowledges his eating disorder and other mental health struggles
Overall: Well, this one made me all choked up
This book was difficult, especially after the increasing lightness of the first three books. While Volume 3 was mostly, well, silly, we also learned that Charlie had a history of cutting and that Nick was increasingly worried that Charlie had an eating disorder. This all comes to a head in Volume 4, as Nick and Charlie both work through figuring out how to get Charlie the help he needs.
The format of this book is slightly different than the first three because instead of moving in a linear way, it includes a long section of Nick recalling what happened once school started again. The story picks up in summer, right before Nick goes on his family holiday to Menorca. Prior to his trip, he confesses that he’s worried Charlie’s got an eating disorder and asks him to talk to his parents to get help. The problem is, Charlie’s mom is doing a lot of projecting and not a lot of listening, so he doesn’t feel like he can talk to her or his dad.
While Nick does help Charlie finally talk to his parents, and they seek help for Charlie immediately, they’re not actually able to get Charlie an appointment for months. This is where Nick’s journaling comes in. Instead of detailing Charlie’s spiraling mental health directly, Nick’s recollections explain the situation in a detached enough fashion to give the reader the information without fully following Charlie on his journey. His eating disorder and self-harm (cutting) get worse until he’s admitted to an in-patient facility, where he spends almost the entire semester.
In this book, Nick is watching the boy he loves struggle and is struggling himself because he’s scared and feeling helpless. Both Nick and Charlie need to—and come to—learn how to rely on their greater community of family and friends for the support and love that will help Charlie in particular learn how to take care of his health. But Nick also needed to learn that it’s not a personal failing to be unable to address this on his own and that seeking help from a community is a strength, not a weakness. Once again, the way this book handles processing some heavy stuff that really isn’t all that unusual to teen life in a way that is gentle and affirming.
I got pretty sniffly reading this one, but I would absolutely recommend it, perhaps more than any of the others in this series (though it’s not really a standalone).
Looking for something similar?