11 major things we learned from Heartstopper volume five as Nick and Charlie talk sex
The love story of Nick Nelson and Charlie Spring continues in Alice Oseman’s new graphic novel Heartstopper volume five, and the pair are taking big, big steps.
Warning: spoilers for Heartstopper volume 5 ahead.
They’ve got together. Nick has decided to come out to his friends and family. They’ve enjoyed their first kiss, and a wondrous school trip to Paris. They have said “I love you,” and Charlie has begun struggling with an eating disorder.
In Heartstopper volume five, there are even bigger challenges, questions and decisions facing the pair. Should they have sex? Which university should Nick go to? Can Charlie open up further about his body issues?
There’s been huge anticipation for volume five to come out. Firstly, because there are literally millions of fans invested in Nick and Charlie’s story. Secondly, because the graphic novels also dictate what will happen in the upcoming seasons of the Netflix adaptation.
Now, volume five is finally on our shelves – and with volume 6 set to mark the last instalment in the Heartstopper series, the stage is set for Nick and Charlie’s love story to come to a final conclusion.
Here are the 11 biggest revelations from Heartstopper volume 5…
Heartstopper volume 5 puts Nick and Charlie’s thoughts about sex front and centre
Those who criticised the second season of Netflix’s Heartstopper adaptation for being a little too sickly sweet, due to it omitting drink, drugs and sex almost entirely, will be pleased: the bulk of Heartstopper volume five is about Nick and Charlie’s journey towards sexual intimacy.
Of course, this is one of Alice Oseman’s wholesome comics, so don’t expect all-out sex scenes or inappropriate debauchery. The vast majority of the book is dedicated to one question: are Nick and Charlie ready to sleep with each other?
There’s a lot of kissing. There’s a lot of conversation about whether they should have the conversation. Finally, there’s some sensitively written depictions of what it’s actually like for teenagers to move to the next base.
The Truham Grammar School students experience sex education
In classic high school style, the students of Truham Grammar School are taught all they need to know about sex by putting a condom on a cucumber. It’s a subtle comment on how still, in 2023, sex education for young queer people is practically non-existent.
However, it does give us one remarkably flirty moment, with Nick suggesting Charlie should try and put a condom on something that isn’t a cucumber. Whew.
It also gives a little space for Nick’s adorable mum Sarah, played by Olivia Coleman in the Netflix series, to be parent of the year once again, as she asks her son whether he and Charlie are practising safe sex. A queen.
Virginity is a construct
If Alice Oseman can deliver anything, it’s a powerful message for the queer youth of today. First up, she wants readers to know that virginity is a construct.
While much of Heartstopper volume five is about Nick and Charlie getting more intimate, there’s a lot of discussion around the pressure young people face to lose their virginity, and why it’s absolutely essential to wait until you’re ready.
As student Sahar Zahid (Leila Khan in the Netflix series) eloquently points out: “The concept of virginity is bullsh*t.”
A bit of side representation
One of the most affecting moments in Heartstopper volume five comes when Nick and Charlie finally do decide to make their relationship more intimate.
At first, they try “touching”. Afterwards, Charlie asks: “Does it count as sex when it’s just touching, or is it just like, third base?”
“I think it counts,” Nick responds. “I think sex can be all kinds of things,” Charlie adds.
Later, when Nick opens up to Elle (Yasmin Finney) and Tara (Corinna Brown) about his experience with Charlie, he reveals that they are yet to have intercourse.
“That’s OK, you can build up to that,” Elle responds. To which Tara adds: “Some queer people don’t even like doing that, right?”
Nick and Charlie do go all the way in the end
In the final part of Heartstopper volume five, Nick and Charlie do appear to have penetrative sex.
At a sleepover at Nick’s house, Nick helps Charlie to take his top off, and before you know it, they’re under the covers.
The comic shows a pharmacy bag on the floor beside them, containing lube and condoms that Nick had purchased earlier.
Elle and Tao take their relationship further, too
In a sweet chat between Tao (played by William Gao in the TV series) and Charlie in the book, during which Charlie opens up about feeling nervous to do anything sexual, Tao reveals that he and girlfriend Elle have “done some stuff”.
“I was so scared about getting it wrong or making things awkward but you know, it’s me and Elle. We love each other,” he shares.
“If it’s awkward, we can just laugh about it. It’s supposed to be fun, right?”
Tori comes out as asexual
When Heartstopper season two came out, it was lauded for having an asexual character in Isaac (Tobie Donovan). Now, volume five has revealed that another fan favourite – Charlie’s sister Tori (Jenny Walser) – is also asexual.
It’s a wonderful additional bit of asexual representation from Alice Oseman, who is herself asexual, particularly considering Tori’s popularity with fans.
During a heart to heart with Charlie about her relationship with boyfriend Michael Holden (who it was recently announced will be played by Darragh Hand in season three), Tori reveals that both her and Michael are queer.
“You’re having a weird amount of trouble with labels for a straight couple,” Charlie says, to which Tori replies: “Neither of us is straight, Charlie.”
Tori then reveals that Michael’s biggest celebrity crushes are Pedro Pascal and Paul Mescal, while Tori shares that she is asexual.
“I’m just not attracted to people in that way. Even him,” she says. “And before you say anything, I know some asexuals enjoy having sex, but I don’t think I’m one of them.”
Charlie’s eating disorder recovery continues
Heartstopper volume 5 isn’t exclusively about sex and sexuality, though. Much of volume four, and the upcoming third season on Netflix, focus on Charlie’s struggle with anorexia.
In volume five, we see him continue his recovery journey – he’s got a therapist, is opening up about body dysmorphia, and is slowly learning how to look at himself topless in the mirror. With continuous encouragement from Nick, Charlie is slowly getting better.
Nick’s university choice could change his relationship with Charlie forever
Other than whether to be intimate with Charlie, Nick’s biggest worry in volume five is about his university choices. The book’s big trip – akin to the Paris trip in volume three – is when Nick, Tara and Elle head on a country-wide tour of the UK’s best universities, including Leeds, Oxford, and Loughborough.
Nick is torn about which one to go to; he’s intent on going to the University of Kent so that he can stay close to Charlie, even though he’s disinterested in the university itself. His biggest fear is being away from Charlie, as without him, he fears he doesn’t know who he is.
At the very end of volume five, Nick makes a huge decision, opting to make the University of Leeds his top choice – meaning he’ll be hours away from Charlie. In volume six, the final Heartstopper installation, fans will likely learn whether the couple can make a long distance relationship work.
Charlie’s own academic experience changes
While Nick is preoccupied with his university woes, Charlie’s academic future is looking bright, as Mr Farouk (Nima Taleghani) nominates him for Head Boy. He’s still not 100 per cent sure whether he’ll apply for the coveted role, but with Nick’s seemingly endless affirmation, it looks likely that volume six will see Charlie become Truham Grammar School’s leading student.
Plus, he also joins Sahar’s band Queer Intentions, playing the drums – alongside Aleena on the bass, and new, non-binary character Jay, who plays the keyboard.
It’s the Nick and Charlie show
While Heartstopper has always centred on Nick and Charlie, volume five feels almost exclusively about the couple. Elle, Tao, Tara, Sahar and Nick and Charlie’s family all make appearances, but all of their plot points are tied to the leading couple.
It’s perhaps unsurprising, though. As the next volume, volume six, will be the last in the Heartstopper series, it’s almost time for Nick and Charlie’s love story as we know it to end, and there’s a lot to be said and done before that happens…
Heartstopper volume five is out now. Heartstopper seasons one and two are streaming on Netflix now.
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