MY HEART & OTHER BLACK HOLES
by Jasmine Warga
Pages: 320 (paperback)
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Publication Date: 12th February 2015
Received From: Hodder Children's Books
Received From: Hodder Children's Books
Aysel and Roman are practically strangers, but they've been drawn into an unthinkable partnership. In a month's time, they plan to commit suicide - together.
Aysel knows why she wants to die: being the daughter of a murderer doesn't equal normal, well-adjusted teenager. But she can't figure out why handsome, popular Roman wants to end it all....and why he's even more determined than she is.
With the deadline getting closer, something starts to grow between Aysel and Roman - a feeling she never thought she would experience. It seems there might be something to live for, after all - but is Aysel in so deep she can't turn back?
"You aren't allowed to die without me."
I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this book from Hodder Children's Books for review and I can’t thank them enough! My Heart & Other Black Holes is a stunningly written book that is both unique and heart-wrenching. I couldn't put this one down! It gripped hold of me from the very first chapter and didn't let me go until the very last page - and even then I didn't let go.
My Heart & Other Black Holes tells the story of Aysel and Roman. Both teens have had a rough couple of years and its become too much for them. This isn't the typical YA book, it's the story of how these two teenagers came together and decided they wanted, no scratch that, needed to die. Both Aysel and Roman have different reasons to wanting to end their lives, but this is one very strong connection between them and that's family or more accurately, what happens to you when the unimaginable happens to the people you love.
For me personally it was the character's the really made this book. Yes, the story was interesting but it was the richness of the these two characters that drew me in and had me holding my breath. It was this idea that depression isn't always visible. We've constructed and idea of what it means to be ‘depressed’. I mean you hear it all the time don’t you? "Oh god, she looks so depressed!" or "Why is he so depressing all the time?" But it's not that simple, and Roman’s character shows that perfectly. On the surface Roman has everything, but there's this illness inside him that he can't escape. I think that's what I love about this book, it's that it is real and relatable. Even if you haven't suffered to these extremes you can connect with the characters and that makes them come to life.
My Heart & Other Black Holes is one of those books that stay with you well after you've read that final sentence. I wish I was able to travel back in time and give a copy of this book to my 16 year-old self. I'd recommend this book to anyone, but if you feel like or have ever felt like you just can't cope then this is a perfect book for you.
Overall I can't praise Jasmine enough for this book. It's everything a story like this should be and it is one of those books I'm proud I got to read. It's not sugar coated, there are no rose tinted glasses, just raw emotion and beautifully written sentences.
I received this book as an ARC from Hodder Children's Books to read & review. This is a 100% honest review.
by Jasmine Warga
So complete disclosure: I didn’t actually visit any online suicide forums when I was writing the novel. Those types of websites are dark and destructive and toxic and so I didn’t want to give them any traffic, but I knew of their existence from articles in the paper I had read. (I also felt very strongly about making the online suicide forum in the book fictional for the reasons above.) All that said, I think those darks corners of the Internet are so complicated because I very much understand the need to find and connect with other people who are feeling the same way that you are. Obviously I am not advocating for finding a suicide partner online, but rather explaining that I understand the popularity of certain problem-driven tags on websites such as Tumblr for example. I know what it’s like to feel like no one in your life understands what you’re feeling or going through, and to desperately want to find another human being to which you can relate.
In lots of ways, I think I wrote the book to explore those murky and complicated facets of the Internet. The Internet gives us the ability to connect with people we never would’ve before had the opportunity to meet. This is an amazing thing. It can put us in contact with people who may understand how we are feeling. But it can also put us in contact with people who may be a negative influence or with whom we may develop a toxic and destructive relationship.It is such a complicated question of whether two people who are suffering from the same affliction—be it anorexia, suicidal ideation, self-harm—can help each other by forming a relationship in which they share their feelings or whether that relationship is doomed to be toxic. Maybe with the correct supervision (such as group therapy) these relationships can be beneficial because sometimes there is nothing more precious than knowing someone understands exactly what you are going through; or maybe these relationships will only ever deepen and heighten the problems that pre-existed the relationship. I don’t have the concrete answer to that, and I also don’t think my book has the answer to that. Rather it’s a question I was interested in raising and I’m hoping my book will open up discussions about this issue.
I do believe human connection and communication are integral and very important. Communication can often be lifesaving. And the modern world we live in is full of so many wonderful advancements that make it easier than ever to communicate and connect, but those advancements have also brought on lots of new questions. And so to that effect, I’m interested in writing books that ask those questions, not necessarily books that give answers.
Q&A with Jasmine Warga
author of My Heart & Other Black Holes
What was the inspiration behind My Heart & Other Black Holes? I started to write the book after the death of one of my closest friends and my grief served as chief inspiration. But while the novel stemmed from grief, to me, it’s really a book about love (in all its forms, especially self-love) and the importance of human connection.
Did you have to do a lot of research for the book being as it’s such a serious subject? I actually didn’t. I mostly wrote from my own heart, gut, and experiences. The book isn’t meant to be a full study of depression, but rather a singular story about two individual people who are struggling with mental illness. All that said, my editor did have the finished manuscript reviewed by a psychiatrist and I was so happy when he said he found the book to be authentic, thoughtful, and responsible.
What’s the one song that can always shake your bad mood?
Is it cliché of me to say Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”? But that’s been my go to song for that recently :)
Who was your favorite character to write and why?
Probably Aysel for the sheer reason that I know her better than any of the other characters since I spent several months inside her head. She was my narrative companion and so I feel the closest to her. If you could pick anyone, whom would you cast in a film adaptation? Yikes! This is so hard because I’m not that familiar with many actresses and actors. I’m not sure…I really would just want two people who would try to bring the story to life with authenticity and passion. I know this is a cop-out, but if I was ever so lucky to see the book made into a movie, I’d trust the casting director!
What three books would you recommend to readers of My Heart & Other Black Holes?
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson (mostly because it’s one of my most favorite books ever and got me through a really difficult period in my life), Weetzie Bat (because it’s my favorite YA book from when I was younger), and The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood because I recommend it to everyone and I want every person in the world to read it because it’s beyond amazing. What was it about this particular subject that made you want to write a book? In other words, why teen suicides? I don’t think that there was ever a moment where I sat down and decided to write a teenage suicide novel. Rather, Aysel’s voice came to me, and I became fascinated with her character, and it’s her voice and character that led me to this story. But now that it’s finished, I feel really passionate about speaking out about suicidal ideation and depression in hopes of reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.
What’s the most challenging part of the writing process for you? Two things—the first being seeing a project through to the end. I’m notorious for giving up on things at the midway point. It’s hard for me to stay interested enough in a story to finish it. And second, endings. I find endings to be really hard as both a writer and a reader.
In one sentence tell us why we should read My Heart & Other Black Holes? Ah! Another tough question! I guess I would love for readers who enjoy darker, quirkier stories with a dash of romance to give it a shot.
Lastly describe your book in five words… Go!
Quirky. Heartrending. Kinetic. Love. Understanding.