Heartwarming Queer YA Books Like Netflix’s HEARTSTOPPER
Now that we’ve all had the chance to watch every single episode of Heartstopper (it can’t have just been me), we can obsess over how adorable it is. The graphic novel is cute enough, but seeing Charlie and Nick brought to life on screen melted my whole entire heart. But, now, we’re all asking ourselves, what next? How do we fill the Heartstopper shaped void in our hearts and minds? (After reading the original graphic novels, of course.) Well, dear reader that’s where I– or, rather, these eleven adorable books like Heartstopper–come in.
I’ve pulled together a mixture of novels and graphic novels that feature friendship, queer joy, coming out, sports, and all the other good stuff that made you love Heartstopper so much in the first place. I can’t guarantee every book will feature all of those things at once because I’m not a magician, but you get the idea. I wanted to include a little bit of everything in this list since Heartstopper features gay, lesbian, bi, and trans representation, so we’ve got m/m romance, sapphic romance, trans joy, and bi and ace characters. Some of them are out and proud while others are still questioning and figuring out their sexuality, just like Nick. But all of these books, like Heartstopper, are full of good friends, sweet romance, and happy endings.
Running with Lions by Julian Winters
Rising senior Sebastian Hughes can’t wait for summer training camp and his first year as team captain. But when his estranged childhood best friend shows up as the newest member of the team, Sebastian worries that their stormy relationship could wreck the team. Sebastian is determined to get along with Emir for the sake of the team, but, much to his surprise, long days on the soccer pitch and weekends wandering the town have the two not only reconnecting, but building a relationship that might even become something more.
Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
Check Please! is an adorable, sporty graphic novel series told primarily through vlog-style updates from new Freshman hockey player, Bitty. He’s a former ice skater who loves to bake and is the smallest guy on his team, but that doesn’t stop him from winning everyone over, even the stoic team captain with a whole lot of weight on his shoulders. Do I even really need to spell out where the romance lies or can you see that one coming from a mile away? Just trust me when I say if you like Heartstopper, you should definitely read this comic, too.
Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier and Val Wise
An antisocial lesbian learns she needs to join an extracurricular to round out her college applications and decides to give cheerleading a shot. Being on the squad also gives her a chance to reconnect with her former best friend, the new cheerleading captain, a trans girl trying to juggle straight A’s and after school practices to keep her parents supportive of her transition. Annie’s always been a bit of a loner, but as she finds friendship–and maybe more–with Bebe, she also discovers that having a team to back you up isn’t such a bad thing.
Forward March by Skye Quinlan
Let’s hear it for the band geeks! (I know Charlie, Tara, and Darcy are cheering, at least.) Harper just wants to get through her senior year in marching band and survive her Republican father’s presidential campaign–a campaign she’s not even sure she wants him to win–but then a fake dating profile posing as Harper threatens to derail everything. Harper’s not even she likes girls, or anyone for that matter, but according to her fake dating profile, she does. But when drumline leader Margot swipes right, she’s not sure if she should say no, reveal the truth, or follow her heart. I love that this book, like Heartstopper, features a teenager questioning and figuring out their sexuality.
The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons
At his new school, Spencer might finally get the chance to have it all: friends, a starting position on the soccer team, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. There’s just one problem: no one at school knows he’s trans, and after getting bullied out of his last school, and he feels like passing is the only option. But when a discriminatory law will see him benched for the season because of the F on his birth certificate, he has to decide whether to sit on the sidelines or fight for his right to play… even if it means coming out to all his new friends and teammates, including his crush.
Fence by C.S. Pacat, Johanna the Mad, Joana LaFuente, and Jim Campbell
Private schools, competitive fencing, and teammate rivalries and romances — you can expect all that from this graphic novel about the wunderkind son of a retired fencing champion. The world of competitive fencing is cutthroat, and after being accepted onto the team at Kings Row, Nicholas is up against some of the best of the best, including his golden-boy half-brother.
Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa
Julián Luna’s plans for a quiet senior year before graduating, going to UCLA, and getting out of Corpus Christie, Texas, forever are thrown out the window–and the closet–with one tweet. He finally has the chance to live an authentic life, but the cost might be more than bargained for. A DM from an empathetic Twitter crush in L.A. might just be the saving grace for Jules in this whole situation. But when Jules’s worst fears about coming out come true, the one person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away.
Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau
This sweet graphic novel follows Ari, who longs to escape his family’s struggling bakery to pursue a life of music with his band. While interviewing possible replacements for his position, he meets Hector, a guy who loves baking just as much as Ari loves music. As Ari trains Hector, the two grow closer and their relationship blossoms into a slow, sweet romance. This graphic novel definitely has the same sort of heartwarming vibes as Heartstopper, even though the main characters are a little older.
The Avant-Guards by Carly Usdin and Noah Hayes
You might not expect a school like Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics to have much in the way of sports. Charlie certainly didn’t when she transferred there. But when the former basketball star is recruited by the school’s terrible team, she finds that this ragtag team where competition is just an afterthought might be exactly the place she’s been longing for. If you really loved all the sweet friendship dynamics in Heartstopper, this one is for you.
Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram
Even though this is technically a sequel to Darius the Great is Not Okay, it’s this book that really comes in clutch with the Heartstopper vibes. Like Charlie’s dating experiences, Darius finds himself torn between his first boyfriend, who he thought was everything he deserved, and a growing closeness with one of his new soccer teammates who also happens to be best friends with the school’s biggest bully. The relationship dynamics definitely remind me a bit of the Ben / Charlie and Charlie / Nick dynamic.
Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler
Release: June 7, 2022
Anyone brought in to replace the Alligator’s late star quarterback who died in a tragic car accident was going to face an uphill battle against a student body still mourning their lost friend. But when it turns out their new QB Jack is actually Jaclyn, all hell breaks loose. And to make matters worse, the school’s new football star is outshining their former quarterback’s legacy. The cheerleaders are determined to take Jack down, but with cheer captain hopeful, Amber, falling for her, choosing which side to play for is becoming all too complicated.
For even more great LGBTQ YA (and books like Heartstopper), check out these lists: