I borrowed My Heart and Other Black Holes from my lovely friend Daphne. I didn’t actually know too much about it until I saw a lot of people chatting about it on social media earlier in the year. As it turns out, it’s one of the most honest contemporary novels I’ve read so far.
Aysel is depressed. And suicidal. And through looking for a suicide partner on a forum, she finds Roman aka Frozen Robot. Both of them have had a tragedy occur in their lives; something that has torn their families apart. Aysel and Roman cannot cope with the grief and so decide to kill themselves. They pick a specific day in April, a day that is incredibly significant to Roman. And so – morbidly and poignantly – the countdown begins.
I have read some young adult contemporary novels where the characters have depression or anxiety – or another mental health issue – but I don’t think I’ve come across characters as honest as Aysel and Roman. It’s difficult for people to admit they’re depressed and even more so to admit that they no longer want to live. For Aysel and Roman, it’s something to work towards. Jasmine Warga treats depression sensitively and respectfully, recognising that what the characters feel is true for them. Neither can understand the other’s sadness, but they accept that it’s there. It’s an unusual friendship and it was fascinating watching both Aysel and Roman get to know each other more.
“Depression is like a heaviness that you can’t ever escape. It crushes down on you, making even the smallest things like tying your shoes or chewing on toast seem like a twenty-mile hike uphill. Depression is a part of you; it’s in your bones and your blood. If I know anything about it, this is what I know: It’s impossible to escape.”
Even though friendship is not a cure for depression, it was great to see Aysel and Roman help each other in other ways. I enjoyed that they constantly questioned each other, teased each other. I also thought the way Aysel articulated how she felt was incredibly powerful and is something we need to see more in YA. It’s one thing for a character to say they’re depressed, it’s another to make the reader believe it. It goes without saying that Aysel and Roman go from suicide partners to something more. My Heart and Other Black Holes went the way I expected it to, but this doesn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate the journey.
“Life can seem awful and unfixable until the universe shifts a little and the observation point is altered, and then suddenly, everything seems more bearable.”
Published: February 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (US) Hodder & Stoughton (UK)