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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
A Young Adult novel
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary • Romance

    buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
A stunning novel about the transformative power of love, perfect for fans of Jay Asher and Laurie Halse Anderson.

      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.

*An advanced reader's copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review*

Even after finishing this novel about a month ago, I still cannot pronounce Aysel's name right in my head.

Aysel cannot stop thinking about death, the physics of where energy goes after one has finally passed on. Her life now is factored around the horrible crime that her father committed. People fear her, thinking she could snap just like her father had. And Aysel is looking for sweet relief . . . only, she can't do it alone. Teaming up with Frozen Robot, a boy she met online named  Roman who she's committed herself to as a suicide partner, Aysel slowly begins to unwind, open up, and understand the permanence of death and the tole it has on the people around her. And when feelings for the boy she's promised to kill herself with arise, Aysel starts to see the world in a whole new light.

I feel like My Heart and Other Black Holes kind of took a huge cop out. The novel is sequenced in chapters that lead up to the death day that Aysel and Roman have chosen, and as it quickly winds down, you're writhing in your skin to know what is going to happen on that very last day. But... the bleak and upsetting topic that the author takes on throughout a large portion of the novel suddenly comes to a halt once Aysel invests romantic feelings towards Roman. Feelings that turn off all other dark, depressing, isolated thoughts Aysel harbored for quite some time. It was like a snap of a rubber band. Her depression and will to kill herself were non-existent the moment Aysel considered herself to be in love. The quick decision towards living because Aysel cannot see a world without Roman in it, not even because of her own family and step-siblings who fight for her to smile and come out of her shell or Roman's mother who acts more like a mom Aysel's own mother, was a complete let down. I appreciate the optimistic end, but I with there had been more context for Aysel's epiphany. If Aysel compiled all of these reasons to live rather than just grasping onto those romantic feelings like a life raft, I would have been much happier with the conclusion of this book.

Two things that the novel has going for it are Aysel's humor and the gorgeous prose. Reading was like soaking into a warm tub. Chapters flew by, and Aysel comical banter kept me going strong.
I take a breath and notice that the air has changed flavor from campfire smoke to sweet vanilla and there’s a soft sound in my head that I don’t quite recognize but reminds me of pennies being tossed into a fountain. The pitter-patter of wishes, desperate wishes.
My Heart and Other Black Holes -- 74%

One final thing that bothered me while reading was the intentional, dramatic build up. From page one the reader is left questioning what horrible, town-shaming thing Aysel's father did to send him to prison. And it's obvious what happened since we have her father in jail and a boy in town who is dead. It wasn't hard to pick up the pieces to that mystery. And unlike The Last Time We Say Goodbye, where the reader is waiting for the big reveal of the text her brother sent before killing himself, the reader is able to piece together what it might have been though context clues, but the reveal at the end still packed a punch. But in My Heart and Other Black Holes we are left in muddy darkness until the very end of the book, and the punch is nothing more than a slight bump. While Aysel struggles to search out her father in order to receive answers behind his actions before she ends her own life, the anticipation is false fired. There is never really a resolution between Aysel and her father, never a chance to meet him. She forgives and is given the opportunity to see him with her mother, but the story ends then and there. Roman's love ultimately takes away from Aysel's closure with her father in the "love is the cure" ending of this book. It all seems anticlimactic. And I was unimpressed.

Final Summation: A quick read with lovely prose, but an ending that left me unsatisfied and unimpressed. My Heart and Other Black Holes handles the troubles of depression on a deep level, but ultimately ends on what I found to be unrealistic and utilizes a deux ex machina that did nothing to the take away from the story. For a sensitive topic, I felt emotionally indifferent. It is sad and crazy and messed up that people go through troubled thoughts and are immersed in painful memories and events such as the ones that Aysel and Roman go through, but my take away from the novel was much greater than my emotional connection to the characters or their romantic story. I do enjoy reading novels that take on dark topics such as suicide and death, and I encourage those to give them a try, even this particular novel. You might enjoy it more than I did.

 Only two targets slayed, poor marksmanship