Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Mental Illness
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Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.
There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution—Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.
In My Heart and Other Black Holes, we follow, Aysel (pronounced “Uh-zell”) who sets out to commit suicide and do so with a local stranger that she meets on a suicide forum.
The story begins 26 days before the day Aysel sets out to kill herself and is so engaging from the first page, the pacing picking up on the next and really buckling you in, that I read this book in one sitting. I was fully engaged in Aysel’s story which was captivating for a number of reasons.
Aysel and Roman, the boy with whom Aysel creates a suicide pact with, were two very intriguing characters. So much so that after reading, I still feel quite intrigued and believe that so much more character exploration could have happened here.
That said, I do like that this was a story that was about depression and suicide but its focus was moreso the daily struggle leading up to the goal of suicide rather than all of the reasoning that led up to the decision. Because reasoning is so personal and so illogical (mental illness, hello, it doesn’t always make sense) yet so completely logical to the individual, so for the road this book chose to go down on, focusing moreso on the former rather than the latter, I can definitely appreciate what’s been done here. Reasoning does play a part as the book moves closer to the ending but it’s not the focus. Because here, it’s not so much about the reasoning per say and it is moreso about what these characters decide to do within their circumstance. Will they jump down or jump high? And can they do either own their on or with help? Are they willing to get help, however that may come (support from other people, medicine, etc..)?
We do get a brief feel for Aysel’s family life…the strained relationship that she has with her mother and half siblings, and essentially non-existent one with her step father, all of this making Aysel feel like an intruder in her own home. Aysel has questions for her biological father, who is in jail for the murder of one of her peers who was an Olympic hopeful. I love that Aysel pays attention to her parents enough to consider that her depression could be hereditary. I don’t remember the last time I read a YA book where this was the case and it was openly discussed, so that was so wonderful to see. More of this, please.
Through Aysel and Roman, we get a thought provoking look at what it’s like inserting ourselves in other people’s lives and pushing others away from our own. We get an up close look at grief and regret, unforgiveness and closure, gaining trust and losing judgement, depression, hope, and love. We follow two broken people with some common ground but ultimately two different perspectives, levels of openness, determination and optimism and that journey is definitely worth reading.
Now while I can’t say that I connected to this book 100% in the way that I have with other books dealing with similar subject matter, I still saw the heart of My Heart and Other Black Holes on every page. Not to mention, Warga knows how to write a page turning and compelling novel. Needless to say, this was a fine debut. I’d recommend this for sure and I’m very much looking forward to what Warga publishes next!
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga is available today.