Book review: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Aysel thinks her future is a black hole. She’s terrified that she will turn out to be a monster like her father, who killed a local teen. She looks online for a suicide partner, someone who would plan with her and make her go through with it. She comes across a boy whose handle is FrozenRobot. In real life, his name is Roman, he’s a year or so older than Aysel is, and lives only 15 minutes away from her small town of Langston, Kentucky. Roman is looking for someone to die with him on April 7, the anniversary of a horrible event in his life. This gives the teens less than a month (the narrative begins on March 12) to plan and prepare for their suicides.
Aysel (who is Turkish and tells a classmate that her name rhymes with “gazelle”) often references the black slug that is depression. It lives in her and eats up all the goodness and joy that there could be. While talking about her classmates trying to decode poems by depressed poets, she thinks, “Anyone who has actually been that sad can tell you that there’s nothing beautiful or literary or mysterious about depression.” She goes on to say, “If I know anything about [depression], this is what I know: It’s impossible to escape.” There is a lot of this extremely honest talk about depression, something I appreciated.
Roman needs Aysel to basically stand in as a new friend who will allow him to get out of the house long enough to kill himself. For the past year, his parents have watched him closely, taking away his driving privileges and even checking on him in the middle of the night. They know he’s depressed and the fear what he might do. But if he has a new friend and acts “normal,” he should be able to start getting out of the house more.
Together, they form a weird and tense friendship. As they get to know each other and really talk about their lives, their pain, and their depression, they grow closer. All along Roman has been worried that Aysel will flake out on him, and when she begins to realize she might not want to go through with this, she wonders if she can turn Roman into a flake, too.
Small peeks of humor and the slow friendship between the teens keeps this from being unbearably sad. Aysel is a great character. She thinks a lot about her depression and grows over the course of the story. The writing is beautiful and the plotting is perfect—the countdown at the top of each chapter reminds us that even if they’re having what feel like regular experiences and conversations, they are moving quickly toward their ends. A moving exploration of depression, isolation, strength, and, ultimately, hope.
An author’s note at the end talks about the depression, encouraging readers to treat suicidal thoughts as a medical emergency and to get help. Warga also addresses readers who think they might have a friend struggling with depression, and asks them to talk with the friend or an authority figure about it. Suicide prevention and counseling hotlines and websites are also appended.
REVIEW COPY COURTESY OF EDELWEISS
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 2/10/2015
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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