Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Heart and Other Black Holes review

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Pages: 302
Keywords: depression, friendship, suicide
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | Buy It!
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.
This is one with a dramatic cover switch between the ARC release and the publication, and I have to say, it was a decision well made. Not that I particularly hate the original cover, but the new one fits the theme and feel of the story much better than the original. The original didn't take the story seriously, I don't think, and I felt like I was going to be reading a teen angst story rather than a serious dialogue of depression and suicide.

Hometown shout-out for being set in Kentucky and close enough to Louisville that it makes a cameo! I often don't find books in the area, especially these types of books, that bring up serious issues for people living in this sort of lifestyle. Even though it's a small reason, I feel like I connected with this book immediately because I could picture the houses, the landscape, the drives, the characters, and the lifestyle because it's one I grew up in and will always remember well.

What really stood out was the perspective this book took on the topic. There was no leading up to the decision, there was no plummeting into depression: The characters were already there and already decided they were going to do this. The story was about the courage they were trying to muster up to actually kill themselves, which was heartbreaking to watch. We were introduced to their families, which made me feel so emotionally attached to these kids, and I wanted to join in on their family game nights and dinners. This was just so different than other books on this topic because it was taking place after the decision had been made, and the characters were just waiting until the correct day to do it.
I also loved it because it (subtly) brought up the importance of not treating people like shit in high school. The MC's father was in jail, and the entire school treated her like a pariah. She was pretty good at staying distant, too, but it all began with people being rude and horrible to her, so she rightly distanced herself as much as she could. It's so important to realize everyone has different experiences and that you never know what someone else could be going through or dealing with, and this book did a wonderful job of bringing that up without throwing it in your face to be an obvious theme or message.

There was a small moment when there was a physics photography assignment that had Aysel working with another student from her class, and even though he was a popular jock, he seemed nice and ready to work with her. I wanted to see a few more moments like this were she had interactions with students that led to her not totally hating the school. It seemed like they were pretty willing to come around and talk to her once she opened up a little in class, and I just wanted to see that actual development a bit more.

I honestly didn't know whether or not they would go through with it, and I was genuinely nervous the closer the dates got to April. I didn't want the days to tick down because I truly didn't know how it was going to end or what kind of decisions they were going to make. Even though it's made technically at the very beginning of the book, there is still so much that happens leading up to it that made me feel for them.

This is a poignant, real story of two regular kids just trying to live, and they lean on one another and learn to lean on others for support, and I think Warga did an amazing job of telling their stories.

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