Publisher: Baltzer + Bray
Edition: Hardcover, 302 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
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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.
My Heart & Other Black Holes and I almost started out on the wrong foot, and given the subject matter this is one of the few books I would have DNFed if I found it to be too much. However, given some time and a bit more development this turned out to be a great story!
Aysel (Uh-zell) is a main character with depression, and as a result suicidal thoughts. After an incident with her father years ago she’s finding it hard to fit back into her life, and the people around her are not making it any easier…so she finds solace in two things Physics and a site called Smooth Passages. Smooth Passages is a site for those dealing with mental illness, but mostly focuses on the suicidal portion…and not in a healthy growing way. Instead it’s a forum for those who want to commit suicide, and it’s there that Aysel meets Roman. Parts of this book left an awful taste in my mouth, and not necessarily because it was poorly written but because I know it’s plausible and I can even understand most of it. Part of the reason is the way suicide is portrayed, like it’s the golden opportunity, but honestly it made sense. The book is center in Aysel thoughts and to her and Roman suicide is that silver outline, and that’s the most dangerous thing about depression…it will always give you a very good reason for suicide to be an option. Even if the reality of the situation is not as dire as it’s making you believe. So in that aspect I think the book is fairly on point, especially in the teenage mind. When I was a teen my mind fixated on it, the things I truly enjoyed became some sort of accessory to it (like physics for Aysel), and even though this book isn’t the most poetic it definitely gets that messy but totally vindicated thought process.
I can’t say I liked Aysel to begin with, but the funny thing is I can see myself in her. I totally understood the numbness and the overall feeling of fatigue (both physically & mentally). She’s rather blunt, mostly quiet, but she’s smart and has a ton of promise and towards the end of the book I was rooting for her. I feel the same way about Roman, though there were times when I wanted to slap him for being such a flip-flop. I really don’t like people who say one thing while doing the opposite, it’s confusing and it really has the potential to destroy someone. However despite that his story made my heart ache, and while I didn’t really ‘get’ the chemistry between them I did think they have the potential to be great for each other. Just having someone to open up to and have that understanding without judgement is excellent, and I was really glad to see that develop between them.
My Heart & other Black Holes will not be for everyone. I wouldn’t say it’s the best written YA I’ve read on the subject, and it definitely doesn’t shy away from being heavy. The main character isn’t actively looking for meaning in life, and she’s not a poet. BUT I do think it does a good job of getting that dark reality and I think despite it’s heaviness it does show little glimmers of hope throughout it that really make you pull for the characters.