Review: “My Heart and Other Black Holes” – Jasmine Warga

January 26, 2015 Author Interview, Book Review, Initial Reaction 0

Review: “My Heart and Other Black Holes” – Jasmine WargaMy Heart and Other Black Hole by Jasmine Warga
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Published on: February 10th 2015
Published by: Balzer and Bray
Pages: 320
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Paperback

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The Story

(summary from Goodreads)

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: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) 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. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

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Initial Reaction

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My Thoughts

Before reading this book I didn’t know anything about suicide partners, I’d never even heard of them. You probably think it strange but my first thought was: well at least they don’t have to die alone. One of my greatest fears is being alone, and I found it comforting that, even people who had reached such a low point in their lives in which they saw no other option then taking their own lives, didn’t want to be alone at the end.

Be careful

Jasmine Warga deals with a very serious topic that sadly is very relevant in our world today. Although I have read books that contain suicide before, I have never read one of the topic of suicide partners and I was intrigued as to how it was going to be handled.

It’s intense and it’s heavy, but it is also hopeful. Jasmine’s gut wrenching honesty gives us a haunting portrayal of depression at it’s darkest and really shows her talents as she turns something as somber and sensitive as suicide into something stunning.

Aysel and Roman both chose to have a suicide partner because they need someone to make sure their suicide happens. Roman needs a car and an excuse to get away from his over protective mother, Aysel needs someone to make sure she goes through with it. They are not after friendship, or someone to try and talk them out of it. All they want is someone who understands that they want to do this and to make sure it happens right.

Found my partner
But with that understanding of the need to die comes something else, the ability to be the only person to understand exactly what the other is going through: their black holes and giant slugs of depression. They know the right things to say, the right things to do, and from that grows a friendship and a partner who they come to rely on for much more then to stand beside them and jump when the time is right.

Both Aysel and Roman are severely depressed and have been contemplating their deaths for quite a while, so for them it is a very normal thing to think and talk about. It was quite scary at times how casual a topic they found it, checking on suicide forums to see who had died that week, making plans to go and find a suitable place to die, or meeting up to write suicide letters. Their casual approach to the whole thing made it quite hard at times having to read about these two young people that I had come to like who were just so ready to die.

“According to the boards, Suicide Partners ElmoRains and TBaker14155 took the plunge. I don’t know how SovietSummer231 obtained this information, but hopefully FrozenRobot and I will have the same kind of success.”

One thing that stands out with both of our characters is the strength of their hearts and their desire to rid the world of their lives in order to save the people around them. Aysel fears becoming her father and unleashing an ugly part of herself on the world, whilst Roman struggles with his guilt of being a constant reminder to his family of the bad things they have been through. Neither of them want to cause any more pain then is necessary, they are not bad people, and reading about the way that they see themselves is incredibly emotional and required a number of “emotional recovery breaks” whilst reading.

“I’m doing my best to hide it all from her. Once I’m gone, I don’t want her to feel guilty thinking there was something she could have done.”

As the book is written from Aysel’s POV it is her we get to know the most and even though a lot of her thoughts at the beginning of the book were very dark I found myself immediately liking her. She was broken and struggling, but underneath it all there were these moments when we got to see the real Aysel shine through, and she was brilliant. She was funny, and full of personality and passion, especially for physics. Jasmine expertly weaves Aysel’s love of physics and the way that she understands the world into a head and heart filled with such dark thoughts and feelings to produce a very unique and beautiful perspective of the world.

Someone to notice them.
Most noticible about Aysel and Roman is their desire to not connect with anything that might stop them from going through with their plan. Aysel tries to distance herself from everything: people at school, her own family and Roman’s family, but through the book she keeps finding herself being forced into these situations that show her just how much she actually has in her life worth living for. Moments of dread for her become moments of hope for us.

“I stare at Mrs. Franklin, her smiling, eager to please face, and I know that Roman and I are about to break her heart.”

Most important of all is Aysel and Romans connection to each other which grows deeper throughout the book, and provides us with the constant hope that these two people can save each other and find a life worth living together. It is a hope that keeps us hooked, right to the very end.

I can't make you happy

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Jasmine Warga Interview

1) Firstly, congratulations on your debut novel, it has got to be an extremely exciting (and probably very busy!) time in your life. What has been your favourite part of the whole process so far?
Thank you! I’ve loved so many things about it—getting to meet other writers, getting to work with my brilliant editor and wonderful agent, holding the finished copies of the novel in my hands, visiting high schools—but my absolute most favourite thing has been getting to connect with readers. I’m first and foremost a reader and I love that this experience has put me in contact with so many people who truly love books in such a big-hearted and generous way. Book people are my people.

2) Your book deals with a very heavy but hopeful topic. Have you ever been worried that the subject matter might scare people off? What message do you hope readers get from it?
I’m definitely worried that people won’t give the book a chance because they’ll be put off by the serious subject matter, but that fear is exactly what propelled me to write the book in the first place. As a society, I think we need to do a better job at openly and frankly discussing mental health, instead of treating depression and suicidal ideation as something taboo. I really hope that readers will take away a better understanding of depression—that they will understand that it is a REAL and SERIOUS disease and should be treated as one, but that there is hope and depression does not have to be terminal. Finally, I hope people who read MY HEART will be inspired to be kinder and more understanding of others as well as of themselves.

3) Aysel’s love of physics gives her a very unique perspective of the world and her place in it. Where did the idea to include physics come from? 
I’m not quite sure where the idea came from as Aysel came to me as an almost fully-formed character. But if I were to analyse my psyche, I would say that her interest in physics was probably inspired by my time spent as a science teacher.

3) Your book focus’ on two young people who are planning suicide, but is written entirely from just Aysels point of view. What made you chose just to write as Aysel rather then Roman or as a dual POV?
It may sound strange to say but I never even considered writing from Roman’s perspective. To start, I believe that the book is wholly Aysel’s story and I was the most interested in digging into and exploring her journey. That said, now that I think about it, it would’ve been interesting to more deeply explore Roman. Maybe someday I will write a short story from his POV if there is enough reader interest!

4) What was the most difficult part of this book for you to write?
The ending, definitely. I find endings to be so challenging as both a reader and a writer.

5) Which book (not your own) do you wish you could have written?
Everything by Jandy Nelson. Especially THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. That book got me through a really difficult period in my life and I can only hope to someday write a book with that sort of emotional depth and texture. Also, I’m in awe of every word fabulous female writers like Nova Ren Suma, Lauren Oliver, and A.S. King have spun. I would be delighted to have written a book half as good as any of theirs!

6) If someone wrote a book based on your life what would it be called?
Cats, Dogs, and Other Beings Worth Living For. I’m a total animal nut and my cat, Salvador, and dog, Scout, are two of the great loves of my life.

7) If you were a superhero what would your name and powers be?
The Sloth—I have Rip Van Winkle sleeping abilities! Seriously. I can sleep for an embarrassing amount of hours. Though unfortunately, I have yet to wake up in the far future, but I still have my digits crossed for that adventure.

Final Thoughts

I don’t have any other worlds to describe this book, so instead I am ending with a part of Jasmine’s author note which really stuck with me once I had finished this book:

“Finally, I hope this story has reminded you of all the people in your life who matter. Hold them dear, be kind to them and remember life is fragile. I wish you all a very kinetic and beautiful life.” 

Re-Readability: I may need a moment to become a bit more emotionally stable, but yes, most definitely!

I would recommend this book to fans of: John Green, heavy topics, emotional & intense reads, stories with a message.

Not long to wait until the release of My Heart and Other Black Holes

How excited are you for this book?

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