How Alice Oseman left her mark in children’s literature

It’s like tasting a melting chocolate, or rolling under a very soft plaid. heart stopperthe delightful teenage romance that has aired on Netflix since April 22 is a series feel good, both inspiring and tenderly comforting. It tells of the budding relationship between two students at an English boys’ high school, Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick (Kit Connor). The first, a nerd musician, has been harassed for his homosexuality in the past year; the second, a popular rugby player, is considered heterosexual by those close to him. The two grow closer, become friends and soon more, flirting over Instagram and blushing when they’re within three feet of each other.

Around them, endearing young people attract: Elle (Yasmin Finney), who is graduating from high school for girls, Isaac (Tobie Donovan), an introverted boy who likes to read, Tao (William Gao), their scared friend to see his group break up, as well as Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell), a young lesbian couple who soon befriend Elle. Far from today’s standards of teen serials – no drugs, unrealistic sex, or more dramatic mysteries than each other – heart stopper is a quiet and accessible part of life. The characters, played by actors and actresses just out of high school, participate in adolescent activities: meals in the cafeteria, trips to the cinema, orchestra or sports… And a long hesitation before sending a message to the object of their thoughts, or a hectic Google search about their sexual orientation.

heart stopper it was already eagerly anticipated before its broadcast by Netflix: it is indeed the adaptation of a popular webcomic of the same name, which was published online from 2016 and in paper version the following year. Its creator, Alice Oseman, is a queer British author [elle utilise les pronoms féminin « she » et neutre « they » en anglais]† At the age of 27, she already has four novels and two novellas (short novels) to her credit, in addition to: heart stopper of which she is currently writing the fifth volume. She is also the screenwriter and creator of the adaptation.

A first novel at age 17

Alice Oseman has started writing her first novel, solitary, at age 17. She was 19 when it was published by British publisher HarperCollins, who acquired the rights at auction. In the process, contracts are concluded with a number of foreign publishers. In France the book was translated and published by Nathan the following year under the title the lonely year

This is the story of Tori Spring, a pessimistic teenager in first grade, and her encounter with Michael Holden, an inveterate optimist. They investigate hoaxes with increasingly serious consequences that take place at their school. Described by the author as a “dark” novel, solitary already evokes themes that recur in Oseman’s work: friendship, psychological problems and LGBT+ relationships.

Because Tori is the big sister of Charlie Spring, future hero of heart stopperwhich crosses at the moment of solitary a difficult time psychologically. He and his friend, Nick Nelson, are the focus of a novella that Alice Oseman publishes the following year, Nick & Charlie, than This winter – both are published electronically by HarperCollins.

From novels to webcomics

In early 2016, Oseman released his second novel. radio silenceSilence Radio in VF, Nathan editions) was written while studying at the prestigious University of Durham. We follow Frances Janvier, an outstanding college student whose life is split in two, between her attempts to get into Cambridge or Oxford, and her favorite podcast, Universe City† Her life changes when she meets Aled Last…

Of Silence Radio, Alice Oseman affirms her talent for creating captivating characters. She examines the academic pressures that some young people have. She also aspires to represent people of different ethnicities and sexual orientations, a work she has continued to do ever since.

Parallel to her life as a novelist, Alice Oseman embarks on a graphic project: a webcomic about the meeting and beginning of a romance between Charlie and Nick, the minor characters of solitary† The first episode, published on September 1, 2016 on the Tapas platform and a Tumblr blog, marks the beginning of the adventure heart stopper

“I cared so much about these characters. After writing [Solitaire]I kept thinking about [Nick et Charlie] and I knew I wanted to tell their story,” Alice Oseman explained to BuzzFeed in April 2022. From the start, she envisions this story as “very calm”, a “slice of life” without “extreme drama”, she then wrote to an author friend. The webcomic format, and its episodic publication, seems to him – more than a novel – to correspond to this very everyday story.

quiet radical

Everyday, but quietly radical. Because heart stopper is a story of strange love and friendship the likes of which we rarely see. Homophobia, lesbophobia, transphobia are not absent. But discrimination is not central to the story. It is above all that of adolescent love, of a group of friends forming, of young people exploring their identity. Alice Oseman does not hesitate to play with clichés about writing screenplays specific to romance to represent the lives of young people, in the simplicity of its unfolding and the complexity of its emotions.

The comic quickly garnered millions of readers online, until it sparked the interest of Hachette publishing house, which released its first volume in 2018. Three others followed; the fifth and final, whose episodes will be published on Tapas, Webtoon and Tumblr, will be released in early 2023.

Alice Oseman has also published two other “young adult” novels: This is what I was born for, released in 2018, tells of the meeting between a young fan of The Ark, Angel Rahimi, and the group’s leader, Jimmy Kaga-Ricci. Released in 2019, loveless looks at the journey of Georgia, a college student who realizes she is asexual and aromantic — like Alice Oseman herself.

“Osemanverse”

The author’s publications for young adults form a cohesive universe – dubbed Osemanverse by her fans. Aled, one of the protagonists of radio silenceis a secondary character of heart stopper (it was also removed from the series for this reason, as Oseman had explained that she “couldn’t have built her character (…) without her story in radio silenceThis is what I was born for et loveless contain sneaky references to other works.

The “Osemanverse” brings together young people from different backgrounds, with active online lives, often queer. “I really enjoy taking the characters on a joyful journey to discover their queer identities,” Alice Oseman told BuzzFeed. His stories normalize diversity and tend to foster platonic relationships and friendships. “I don’t really know why the media prefers romantic relationships over friendships so much,” she told webzine HelloGiggles in 2016. I imagine people think romantic relationships have a greater degree of intimacy and exclusivity, which makes them more special. I never understood.”

The romance at the heart of heart stopper is different: “I’ve learned that romance isn’t an exaggeration when you’re talking about a marginalized person. There are so many romances that are about cisgender, straight, white, able-bodied people. But beyond that there isn’t much variety,” she lamented. May 2021 against journalist Sean Z.

At the helm of adaptation

The author is directly inspired by her experience, and that of her loved ones, to construct her authentic characters and stories. Like the characters of heart stopperOseman was educated at a same-sex secondary school in the south east of England. But she also uses “sensitivity readers,” she explained to Sean Z., people hired to monitor the treatment of minority characters. “I also turned to the experiences of gay men to write certain aspects of Nick and Charlie’s story – books, articles, documentaries, YouTube videos, etc,” she also told the site in 2019. The Reading Realm.

For the adaptation, Alice Oseman was able to remain in charge, write the script, but also supervise the sets, costumes, music and of course the casting. The result is very close to the original webcomic. So close that as of Friday, fans will happily compare the series’ plans to the comic book boxes. Above all, the adaptation quickly found a large audience, well beyond the already significant readership of Alice Oseman. She is already thinking about what’s next: “I have the freedom to decide what I want to do next,” she explains to the Guardian, and I’m drawn to making older characters now – because I grew up. †

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