A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
As in other volumes, readers may learn something about the British school system and various British word usages/slang. There's a bit of information about sex education, with contraception and safe sex emphasized.
In discussions of sexual activity, it's important to consider and communicate about consent, contraception, and safe sex. Compassionate friends and family listen and support each other through challenges and big decisions. The courage to try new experiences, such as a leadership role, can result in increased confidence.
Positive Role Models
There are many supportive adults. Mr. Farouk encourages Charlie by identifying him for a leadership role. Nick's mom talks openly and positively to him about safe sex. Charlie's mom struggles with her anxiety about Charlie's mental health but grows to trust him more. Teens are also supportive to each other. In particular, friends encourage both Charlie and Nick to communicate openly in their relationships, to try new activities (a band performance for Charlie), and to not limit their options (going away to university for Nick).
Charlie and Nick are a queer, White couple. Their friends are from a variety of ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual identities, as implied by skin tones, names, and other features. Charlie's sister Tori comes out to him as asexual, and her identity is explored briefly.
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Violence & Scariness
Charlie's past struggles with bullying and an eating disorder are touched on briefly.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
High school students participate in a sex education class in which they discuss contraception and sexually transmitted infections. Students are given condoms to put on a cucumber. Outside of class, teens discuss sexual activity and losing their virginity. Charlie and Nick kiss frequently and passionately. Their first sexual encounter is described as "hand stuff." Later, penetration is discussed, and it's implied that it happens between Nick and Charlie. Illustrations show the couple in bed together kissing and touching. They are shirtless and covered from the midriff down. There's an illustration of their pants on the floor next to the bed. Excitement and implied sexual activity is illustrated with collages that show them in a variety of positions with stylized "bursts" around them.
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Swearing includes a handful of instances of "f--k," "f--king," and "s--t."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink at Charlie's 16th birthday party at which they're all sleeping over. It's implied that the parents are aware. Teens mention mixing vodka into their drinks. Charlie gets a little bit drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Heartstopper, Volume 5 by Alice Oseman, is the penultimate book in the popular graphic novel series. Communication, compassion, and courage are highlighted. A character is in recovery and therapy after his hospitalization for an eating disorder. High school students take a sex education class that includes putting a condom on a cucumber. A couple discuss going further in their romantic relationship. They do "hand stuff," and it's implied that penetration later occurs. The couple are illustrated as naked from the torso up with lower parts covered by a blanket. Pants are shown on the floor. Illustrations imply sexual activity through collages of kissing, embracing, and touching with starburst-like doodles around them. Swear words include a handful of uses of "f--k" and "s--t."
Is It Any Good?
The fifth volume continues to offer heartwarming moments between Charlie and Nick, their engaging friends, and their loving families. In Heartstopper, Volume 5, the main emphasis is on Nick and Charlie's decision whether or not to take their physical relationship further. Sex is discussed a lot at school, among friends, and at home. The book deals with these discussions and decisions in a sensitive way. Consent, contraception, and safe sex are clearly highlighted. It's great to see such open conversations about sex. At the same time, the content may be too sexually mature sexual for younger readers who read the earlier and comparatively sex-free volumes. Illustrations imply physical intimacy but are not explicit. Charlie and Nick also seem a bit emotionally dependent on each other at times throughout this series, which is why it's good when they have interesting experiences with people outside of their relationship. With Nick's departure for university on the horizon, readers will look forward with anticipation to the sixth and final volume in the series.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.