Title: My Heart and Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Publication: February 10th 2015 by Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen
Source: Bought from National Book Store
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Realistic, Romance, Young Adult
Other keywords: Depression and Mental Illness
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 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.
There is something equally beautiful and pensive about Jasmine Warga’s debut novel; it does not romanticize depression. Even with a turn not quite so unexpected, it feels natural. She gets it, this author.
“Anyone who has actually been that sad can tell you that there’s nothing beautiful or literary or mysterious about depression.”
I like that Aysel (pronounced like “gazelle,” as she told one of her classmates) can find humor, albeit twisted in times, amidst her black slug of sadness. It isn’t an instant connection, yes. I dig Aysel’s voice after a couple of chapters, but it took a while for her character to grow on me. But even that was organic. When I began caring for Aysel, I was all in. I wanted her to reconsider things. I wanted her to ditch the suicide plan. I wanted her to save Roman. I wanted her to be saved.
“This must be a sign from the universe—if the only time you get lucky is when you’re planning your suicide, it’s definitely time to go.”
I wouldn’t deny that Roman is my favorite character though. He’s complicated and you see the layers in him. He’s not some enigmatic-equals-attractive dude. I actually sort of wish there were pov chapters from him or bonus ones or something. And I spent half of the book feeling queasy knowing these teens are planning their suicide. I also appreciate the inclusion of the parents of both characters. I prefer that there were more interactions but I understand, too, that when you’re a teenager (and forlorn, besides), adults are almost always a detached reality.
“I guess pretty much everything in life is about the perception of the observer.”
Ultimately, My Heart and Other Black Holes is about the walls a person—and depression—builds around her. That isolates the person and locks everyone out. It is about the unheard cries for help. I was deeply moved by a scene centering on the relationship between Aysel and her mother. That particular part, I think, shows really well the depth of Aysel’s character. But Warga, who divulges in the author’s note her personal encounter with depression, creates a heartening, realistic conclusion. I believe there’s a recent rise in YA books dealing with depression and suicide, and My Heart and Other Black Holes is one of those that tackle this thoughtfully and insightfully.
Jasmine Warga grew up outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. Before becoming a full-time writer, she briefly worked as a science teacher. This is her first novel.