Saturday, 17 January 2015

Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine WargaMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga (proof) - 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?
From Goodreads

When it comes to stories about suicide, I have a strange fascination with them; there's nothing like a tragic story to really get you emotional. So I was really eager to read My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga when I heard about it. It's a great story, but not quite what I was expecting.

Aysel wants to die. She is so deep in her sadness, it's a constant, heavy weight inside her, draining her of all other emotion. Her father is in jail for murder, and his actions have changed her whole life. She has no friends, she is constantly whispered about, even her family look at her with anxiety in their eyes. She is overwhelmed by one fear; what if she turns out like her dad? She can't let that happen. She has to die. So when she sees an advert on a suicide website from FrozenRobot, who is seeking a suicide partner, she responds. FrozenRobot turns out to be Roman, a guy a year older than her, dealing with his own demons. A date is set, 7th April, and Roman is adamant that Aysel simply can't flake out. They're doing this, they have to do this, because Roman can't live any longer. But as the days tick by and 7th April dawns closer, Aysel finds herself developing feelings for Roman. She can't let them distract her though - she has to go.

This book is so good at describing depression. Aysel pictures this giant black slug in her stomach that eats all emotions except her sadness and fear. It's heavy and it weighs her down, and she can't get rid of it, no matter what she does. The black slug is her constant companion. As someone who's had family suffer with depression, the realities of Aysel's mental illness are spot on. She is always sad, always, and she's drowning in it. Being the only teen from a Turkish family (a diverse book twice over!) for miles around, everyone knows who she is when they see her - she lives in a small town, so everyone knows the story, but not everyone knows her, so when people see her, see her colouring, they know she's the daughter of the man who murdered Timothy Jackson. And she sees her fear reflected in her eyes - is whatever caused her father to commit such a heinous crime also part of her genetic code? Then she meets Roman, and she starts feeling things other than sadness. But Roman is even more set on taking his life than Aysel is. His determination is a little scary.

I loved all the science in this book. Aysel is really into Physics, and keeps thinking about potential and kinetic energy. She's learnt in school that energy is never destroyed, only transferred - so what happens to a person's energy when they die? She doesn't know, she doesn't understand, and she can't stop thinking about it. There are various references to Einstein and his theories of relativity, and black holes, and other scientific references, which were really interesting, and really made Aysel stand out as an individual character. She had her quirks, her differences, so she's not your average teenage girl. She felt real.

However, there was something that didn't quite work for me. I wasn't as emotionally hurt by this book as I expected to be. It's a book about suicide, about two teens suffering with depression. I was expecting this book to make me sad, to be emotionally draining and difficult to read because of the deep melancholy that fell off the pages. But it didn't. I was interested in the story, I liked the characters, I wanted to see where they would go, but I wasn't as emotionally invested in it. I didn't even truly feel the romance, sadly. There were some really sweet moments between Aysel and Roman, but nothing that pulled at my heartstrings. Which is really strange, because this book is full of emotion! It just didn't do it for me in that area.

But still, My Heart and Other Black Holes is a really awesome story, and kept me gripped. What was going to happen? Would Aysel and Roman take their lives as planned? Would something happen to stop them? Would something develop between the two of them? Would anyone find out about their pact? The suicide pact element is something I've not read in any other books before, and found it fascinating and disturbing. A great story, and I'd be interested to see what Warga writes in the future.

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for the review copy.

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Published: 19th February 2015
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Jasmine Warga's Website

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