THE AVANT GUARDS, Vol 1 by Carly Usdin

When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

From Carly Usdin (Heavy Vinyl) and artist Noah Hayes (Wet Hot American Summer, Goldie Vance) comes an ensemble comedy series that understands that it’s the person you are off the court that matters most.


Title : The Avant-Guards, Vol 1
Author: Carly Usdin
Illustrator : Noah Hayes
Series : The Avant-Guards
Format : e-ARC (graphic novel)
Page Count : 116
Genre : YA
Publisher : BOOM! Studios
Release Date : 3 September 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

A good start with potential for this new LGBTQ graphic novel focused on a newly contrived basketball team. Charlie has transferred into the school and she is ‘set upon’ by the enthusiastic recruiting of Liv, who is described in the blurb as ‘charming’ but I just thought she was too full on. The temperature of this graphic novel is a little bit funny and a little bit serious.

I really liked some of the characters that I’ve met so far, Charlie, Nicole and Jay. As a team working together, I am hoping to see more of what that brings. I must say, that I felt a general disconnection with the story line that seemed to go in strange directions at times with elements that didn’t make sense but might, I guess, when the next volume comes out. Seeing as Liv will be a main character, I am going to need some winning over to like her and connect with her. The burgeoning romance seemed to come out of nowhere and again, I will need some more convincing. I have to say the visuals were very appealing and that cover really does draw me in.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thank you BOOM! Studios.

HEARTSTOPPER VOL 1 & 2 by Alice Oseman

Volume One

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…? 

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

From the author of Solitaire and Radio Silence comes a bind up of the first two chapters of Heartstopper, an ongoing webcomic.


Volume Two

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. An LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between: this is the second volume of HEARTSTOPPER, for fans of The Art of Being Normal, Holly Bourne and Love, Simon. 

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t. 

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself. 

Heartstopper is about friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us. 

This is the second volume of Heartstopper, with more to come.


Title : Heartstopper Vol 1 & 2
Author : Alice Oseman
Series : Heartstopper
Format : Paperback Graphic Novel
Page Count : 278/315
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : February 7, 2019/July 11, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★/ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Volume 1 – 5 stars

What a blissful, sink-into-the-story book this was. I was engaged from the first block and page with first Charlie and then Nick. It had my heart and my emotional buy-in immediately.

The protagonist, Charlie is 14, he’s gay, mature but knows his identity. He’s emerged of the other side of his coming-out and survived some intense bullying. Nick is in the year above in their boy’s school and he’s 16 and straight. These two are in the same form and their friendship is just gorgeous to observe evolving. The gentle interest, slow touches and flirtation were absolutely captivating.

Charlie’s identity as a gay young person was handled well in this storyline; he didn’t have it all sorted. Even better, I appreciated how Nick’s character and sexual identity emerged, how he handled his growing feelings and how natural these two were alongside one another.

There was realistic depiction of other friends reactions to both Nick and Charlie as individuals but also as friends, not all positive and empowering of course. The storyline of Ben was tough reading but gave some important representation of power, abuse, assault and broke through the stereotypical perception of these issues for young people.

I can’t describe how much I adored the illustration of this story brought to life. Alice Oseman narrated the story well but conjured it into being with the visuals of the characters and nuances of their characteristics.

This was an empowering read and I loved it.


Volume 2 – 5 stars

HEARTSTOPPER 2 blew me away as equally as Volume 1. This was cute but so real and raw. This volume deals with Charlie and Nick’s evolving relationship but it has a specific focus on Nick’s search for a sexual identity. It was quite beautiful.

Charlie was all insecurity and disbelief in this story, he had a sense of undeserving which was no doubt part of the bullying legacy he’d experienced. I loved the small snippets of Charlie’s family who were full on support and love. His sister cracked me up with her swift appearances and en-pointe observations (sip, sip). There was also a great concerned dad moment.

Heartstopper Vol 2 (p, 461). Written and Illustrated by Alice Oseman

Nick’s storyline was intense to watch and read, full of beautiful emotion and difficult confusion. What came across throughout his story arc was what a bloody, great guy Nick was. He was just a great human, with admirable morals and natural loyalty. His nervousness with Charlie was adorable and these two together packed all the welcome heart thumps, all at once.

Friends had more of a focus, both good and bad in this book. Alice Oseman dealt with stereotyping, so-called good-natured (not so good-natured) teasing and exposed these experiences for what they were – unacceptable. However, this was a credible and tangible storyline where of course Nick and Charlie were encountering challenges and prejudice.

Heartstopper Vol 2 (p.433). Written and Illustrated by Alice Oseman.

I simply could not be more enamoured than I am by this series. I continued to adore how Alice Oseman illustrated the emotions, chemistry and feelings on the page. I cannot wait until Volume 3 is ready.

Thank you to the publisher and amazon for this review copy.

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