Whether you’ve been a fan of Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper since you first saw it on Netflix or you’ve been a follower for a long time thanks to the books, there’s one thing you probably know already: Some of her other books are still not available in the United States. That is, until now.
Cosmopolitan has the first official look at the U.S. edition of Solitaire, which follows Charlie’s iconic sister Tori as she figures out love and life. (Yes, when she’s not busy supporting her younger brother and sipping her juice, the Spring sister has her own thrilling story.)
While the book has been available in the UK since 2014, fans in the U.S. have not been able to get their hands on the title without buying it overseas. Now, U.S. fans will get the chance to read the book with a special book cover made especially for them, featuring the one and only Tori illustrated by Alice themself, which you can check out above! There will also be a special Barnes & Noble edition that features a stunning new jacket design by Alice. Here’s some more information about it from Scholastic:
“The amazing novel that introduced Nick and Charlie from HEARTSTOPPER—and the unforgettable Tori Spring.
Tori Spring isn’t sure how to be happy again. Then she meets Michael Holden, and they try to unmask the mysterious Solitaire (and survive high school) in Alice Oseman’s stunning, unflinchingly honest debut novel, which first introduced her fan-favorite HEARTSTOPPER characters Nick and Charlie.”
The special U.S. edition will also include a Q&A between Alice and their U.S. editor, David Levithan. David’s name might be familiar because he’s written books like Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, Every Day, and Dash & Lily.
“Solitaire was the catalyst for so many other wonderful things that have happened in my life. And I look back on the story with fondness,” Alice said in the special Q&A.
And that’s not the only reveal. You can also check out an excerpt below—but not before you preorder the book and also the rest of the Heartstopper series to complete your new collection!
An Excerpt From Solitaire
By Alice Oseman
I am aware as I step into the common room that the majority of people here are almost dead, including me. I have been reliably informed that post-Christmas blues are entirely normal and that we should expect to feel somewhat numb after the “happiest” time of the year, but I don’t feel so different now to how I felt on Christmas Eve, or on Christmas Day, or on any other day since the Christmas holidays started. I’m back now and it’s another year. Nothing is going to happen.
I stand there. Becky and I look at each other.
“Tori,” says Becky, “you look a little bit like you want to kill yourself.”
She and the rest of Our Lot have sprawled themselves over a collection of revolving chairs around the common-room computer desks. As it’s the first day back, there has been a widespread hair-and-makeup effort across the entire sixth form, and I immediately feel inadequate.
I deflate into a chair and nod philosophically. “It’s funny because it’s true.”
She looks at me some more, but doesn’t really look, and we laugh at something that wasn’t funny. Becky then realizes that I am in no mood to do anything so she moves away. I lean into my arms and fall half asleep.
My name is Victoria Spring. I think you should know that I make up a lot of stuff in my head and then get sad about it. I like to sleep and I like to blog. I am going to die someday.
Rebecca Allen is probably my only real friend at the moment. She is also probably my best friend. I am as yet unsure whether these two facts are related. In any case, Becky Allen has very long purple hair. It has come to my attention that if you have purple hair, people often look at you, thus resulting in you becoming a widely recognized and outstandingly popular figure in adolescent society; the sort of figure that everyone claims to know yet probably hasn’t even spoken to a lot of Instagram followers.
Right now, Becky’s talking to this other girl from Our Lot, Evelyn Foley. Evelyn is considered “alternative” because she has messy hair and wears cool necklaces.
“The real question though,” says Evelyn, “is whether there’s sexual tension between Harry and Malfoy.”
I’m not sure whether Becky genuinely likes Evelyn. Sometimes I think people only pretend to like each other.
“Only in fanfiction, Evelyn,” says Becky. “Please keep your fantasies between yourself and your search history.”
Evelyn laughs. “I’m just saying. Malfoy helps Harry in the end, right? So why does he bully Harry for seven years? He secretly likes him.” With each word, she claps her hands together. It really doesn’t emphasize her point. “It’s a well-established fact that people tease people they fancy. The psychology here is unarguable.”
“Evelyn,” says Becky. “Firstly, I resent the fangirl idea that Draco Malfoy is some kind of beautifully tortured soul who is searching for redemption and understanding. He’s essentially a massive racist. Secondly, the idea that bullying means that you fancy someone is basically the foundation of domestic abuse.”
Evelyn appears to be deeply offended. “It’s just a book. It’s not real life.”
Becky sighs and turns to me, and so does Evelyn. I deduce that I am under pressure to contribute something.
“‘I think Harry Potter’s a bit shit, to be honest,” I say. “Sort of wish we could all move on from it.”
Becky and Evelyn just look at me. I get the impression that I’ve ruined this conversation so I mumble an excuse and lift myself off my chair and hurry out of the common-room door. Sometimes I hate people. This is probably very bad for my mental health.
There are two grammar schools in our town: Harvey Greene GrammarSchool for Girls, or “Higgs” as it is popularly known, and Truham Grammar School for Boys. Both schools, however, accept all genders in Years 12 and 13, the two final years of school known countrywide as the sixth form. So, now that I am in Year 12, I have had to face a sudden influx of guys. Boys at Higgs are on a par with mythical creatures, and having an actual real boyfriend puts you at the head of the social hierarchy, but personally, thinking or talking too much about “boy issues” makes me want to shoot myself in the face.
Even if I did care about that stuff, it’s not like we get to show off, thanks to our stunning school uniform. Usually, sixth-formers don’t have to wear school uniform; however, Higgs sixth form are forced to wear a hideous one. Gray is the theme, which is fitting for such a dull place.
I arrive at my locker to find a pink Post-it note on its door. On that, someone has drawn a left-pointing arrow, suggesting that I should, perhaps, look in that direction. Irritated, I turn my head to the left. There’s another Post-it note a few lockers along. And on the wall at the end of the corridor, another. People are walking past them, totally oblivious. I guess people aren’t observant. That, or they just don’t care. I can relate to that.
I pluck the Post-it from my locker and wander to the next.
Sometimes I like to fill my days with little things that other people don’t care about. It makes me feel like I’m doing something important, mainly because no one else is doing it.
This is one of those times.
The Post-its start popping up all over the place.
The penultimate Post-it I find depicts an arrow pointing forwards, and is situated on the door of a closed computer room on the first floor. Black fabric covers the door window. This particular computer room, C16, was closed last year for refurbishment, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s bothered getting started. It sort of makes me feel sad, to tell you the truth, but I open C16’s door anyway, enter, and close it behind me.
There’s one long window stretching the length of the far wall, and the computers in here are bricks. Solid cubes. Apparently, I’ve time-traveled to the 1990s.
I find the final Post-it note on the back wall, bearing a URL for something called SOLITAIRE.
Solitaire is a card game you play by yourself. It’s what I used to spend my IT lessons doing and it probably did a lot more for my intelligence than actually paying attention.
It’s then that someone opens the door.
“Dear God, the age of the computers in here must be a criminal offense.”
I turn slowly around.
A boy stands before the closed door.
“I can hear the haunting symphony of dial-up connection,” he says, eyes drifting, and, after several long seconds, he finally notices that he’s not the only person in the room.
He’s a very ordinary-looking, not ugly but not hot, miscellaneous boy. His most noticeable feature is a pair of large, thick-framed square glasses that sort of make him look like he’s wearing 3D cinema glasses. He’s tall and has a side parting. In one hand, he holds a mug; in the other, a piece of paper and his school planner.
As he absorbs my face, his eyes flare up, and I swear to God they double in size. He leaps towards me like a pouncing lion, fiercely enough that I stumble backwards in fear that he might crush me completely. He leans forward so that his face is centimeters from my own. Through my reflection in his ridiculously oversized spectacles, I notice that he has one blue eye and one green eye. Heterochromia.
He grins violently.
“Victoria Spring!” he cries, raising his arms into the air.
I say and do nothing. I have a headache.
“You are Victoria Spring,” he says. He holds the piece of paper up to my face. It’s a photograph. Of me. Underneath, in tiny letters: Victoria Spring, 11A. It has been on display near the staffroom—in Year 11, I was a form leader, mostly because no one else wanted to do it so I got volunteered. All the form leaders had their pictures taken. Mine is awful. It was before I cut my hair so I sort of look like the girl from The Ring. It’s like I don’t even have a face.
I look into the blue eye. “Did you tear that right off the display?”
He steps back a little, retreating from his invasion of my personal space. He’s got this insane smile on his face. “I said I’d help someone look for you.” He taps his chin with his planner. “Blond guy…skinny trousers…walking around like he didn’t really know where he was…”
I do not know any guys and certainly not any blond guys who wear skinny trousers.
I shrug. “How did you know I was in here?”
He shrugs too. “I didn’t. I came in because of the arrow on the door. I thought it looked quite mysterious. And here you are! What a hilarious twist of fate!”
He takes a sip of his drink.
“I’ve seen you before,” he says, still smiling.
I find myself squinting at his face. Surely I must have seen him at some point in the corridors. Surely I would remember those hideous glasses. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”
“That’s not surprising,” he says. “I’m in Year 13, so you wouldn’t see me much. And I only joined your school last September. I did my Year 12 at Truham.”
That explains it. Four months isn’t enough time for me to commit a face to memory.
“So,” he says, tapping his mug. “What’s going on here?”
I step aside and point unenthusiastically to the Post-it on the back wall. He reaches up and peels it off.
“Solitaire. Interesting. Okay. I’d say we could boot up one of these computers and check it out, but we’d probably both expire before InternetExplorer loaded. I bet you any money they all use Windows 95.”
He sits down on one of the swivel chairs and stares out of the window at the suburban landscape. Everything is lit up like it’s on fire. You can see right over the town and into the countryside. He notices me looking too.
“It’s like it’s pulling you out, isn’t it?” he says. He sighs to himself. “I saw this old man on my way in this morning. He was sitting at a bus stop with headphones on, tapping his hands on his knees, looking at the sky. How often do you see that? An old man with headphones on. I wonder what he was listening to. You’d think it would be classical, but it could have been anything. I wonder if it was sad music.” He lifts up his feet and crosses them on top of a table. “I hope it wasn’t.”
“Sad music is okay,” I say, “in moderation.”
He swivels round to me and straightens his tie.
“You are definitely Victoria Spring, aren’t you.” This should be a question, but he says it like he’s already known for a long time.
“Tori,” I say, intentionally monotone. “My name is Tori.”
He puts his hands in his blazer pockets. I fold my arms.
“Have you been in here before?” he asks.
He nods. “Interesting.”
I widen my eyes and shake my head at him. “What?”
“What’s interesting?” I don’t think I could sound less interested.“We both came looking for the same thing.”
“And what is that?”
I raise my eyebrows. He gazes at me through his glasses.
“Aren’t mysteries fun?” he says. “Don’t you wonder?”
It’s then that I realize that I probably don’t. I realize that I could walk out of here and literally not give a crap about Solitaire or this annoying, loud-mouthed guy ever again.
But because I want him to stop being so goddamn patronizing, I swiftly remove my phone from my blazer pocket, type the URL into the internet address bar, and open up the web page.
What appears almost makes me laugh—it’s an empty blog. A troll blog, I guess.
What a pointless, pointless day this is. I thrust the phone into his face. “Mystery solved, Sherlock.”
At first, he keeps on grinning, like I’m joking, but soon his eyes focus downwards onto the phone screen and, in a kind of stunned disbelief, he removes the phone from my hand.
“It’s…an empty blog…” he says, not to me but to himself, and suddenly (and I don’t know how this happens) I feel deeply, deeply sorry for him. Because he looks so bloody sad. He shakes his head and hands my phone back to me. I don’t really know what to do. He literally looks like someone’s just died.
“Well, er…” I shuffle my feet. “I’m going to form now.”
“No, no, wait!” He jumps up so we’re facing each other.
There is a significantly awkward pause.
He studies me, squinting, then studies the photograph, then back to me, then back to the photo. “You cut your hair!”
I bite my lip, holding back the sarcasm. “Yes,” I say sincerely. “Yes, I cut my hair.”
“It was so long.”
“Yes, it was.”
“Why did you cut it?”
I had gone shopping by myself at the end of the summer holidays because there was so much crap I needed for sixth form and Mum and Dad were busy and I just wanted it out of the way. What I’d failed to remember was that I am awful at shopping. My old schoolbag was ripped and dirty so I trailed through nice places—River Island and Zara and Urban Outfitters and Mango and Accessorize. But all the nice bags there were, like, fifty pounds, so that wasn’t happening. Then I tried the cheaper places—NewLook and Primark and H&M—but I couldn’t find one I liked. I ended up going round all the shops selling bags a billion bloody times before having a slight breakdown on a bench by Costa Coffee in the middle of the shopping center. I thought about starting Year 12 and all the things that I needed to do and all the new people that I might have to meet and all the people I would have to talk to and I caught a reflection of myself in a Waterstones window and I realized then that most of my face was covered up and who in the name of God would want to talk to me like that and I started to feel all of this hair on my forehead and my cheeks and how it plastered my shoulders and back and I felt it creeping around me like worms, choking me to death. I began to breathe very fast, so I went straight into the nearest hairdresser’s and had it all cut to my shoulders and out of my face. The hairdresser didn’t want to do it, but I was very insistent. I spent my schoolbag money on a haircut.
“I just wanted it shorter,” I say.
He steps closer. I shuffle backwards.
“You,” he says, “do not say anything you mean, do you?”
I laugh again. It’s a pathetic sort of expulsion of air, but for me that qualifies as a laugh. “Who are you?”
He freezes, leans back, opens out his arms as if he’s the Second Coming of Christ, and announces in a deep and echoing voice: “My name is Michael Holden.”
“And who are you, Victoria Spring?”
I can’t think of anything to say because that is what my answer would be really. Nothing. I am a vacuum. I am a void. I am nothing.
Mr. Kent’s voice blares abruptly from the tannoy. I turn round and look up at the speaker as his voice resonates down.
“All sixth-formers should make their way to the common room for a short sixth-form meeting.”
When I turn back round, the room is empty. I’m glued to the carpet. I open my hand and find the SOLITAIRE Post-it inside it. I don’t know at what point the Post-it made its way from Michael Holden’s hand to my own, but there it is.
And this, I suppose, is it.
This is probably how it starts.
Copyright © 2023 by Alice Oseman. From SOLITAIRE, by Alice Oseman. Reprinted by permission of Scholastic Press.
Solitaire, by Alice Oseman will be released on May 2, 2023. To preorder the book, click on the retailer of your choice:
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