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 could be a good book. You can read it on a surface level, believing everything that is fed down your throat, and absolutely love it. You could be in tears at the end, your heart stretched like a elastic, and broken in a hundred sharp fragments. You could fall in love with the characters, feel an invisible umbilical cord stretching through the words and into the universe beyond. You could read it, and get that feeling where you close the last page of the book and just sit there vacantly, like: “What did this book just do to me”.
But all of this will only happen if you want it to. Make the decision to believe, and it will take you on a journey. Take it literally and it will be amazing until 60% of the way through. Then it will disappoint, leaving you deflated.
Let’s talk depression. The whole existence of this book is based on the fact that there is a website called “Suicide Partners”, for people who are looking to kill themselves, but don’t want to do it alone. Aysel (pronounced uh-zell, rhymes with ‘gazelle’) is looking to destroy her life after her father’s violent murdering of her small country town’s hero leaves her thrashing in the waves of his wake. Her classmates gossip about her when they think she isn’t looking. Her mother is cold and separated. She has no friends, and is always alone, always sad. No wonder she wants to kill herself.
In the book, her depression is referred to beautifully as a “black slug”. It sits in her stomach and feeds off her happiness, draining every last scrap of joy from her, until she is merely an empty vessel for her slug. Her sadness is described so well, that it spreads to the reader until you feel cold all over and hot inside. You really live inside her. You really are her slug.
The description is beautiful, the prose amazing and the idea great. But that’s about where it ends for me.
Sometimes, I just want to learn a spell to make books into humans. Because then, I can sit the book down and say to it: “Ok. I get it. You’re a YA novel. But please, not all YA novels absolutely need to have a romance.” This is one of those books. The author spends so much of the book setting the scene for a depressed girl, who repeats over and over again how irreversible the damage is, how much she wants to die, how she’s never be whole again, how the black slug will continue to eat her alive until she drops dead or kills herself. And then… enter her magnificent suicide partner, and she heals almost in the space of chapter or 2. It’s a typical case of the author going: “I need a romance and I need a solution. Let’s smush them both together and kill two birds with one stone”, and the book turning out to be a “Love Solves All” with no effort on behalf of the characters to get the solution themselves. However, I will say this. Only Aysel healed quickly. Roman still healed, but slower, and at a more reasonable pace.
Another problem: the ending. The author kind of ran out of breath. The loose ends where exactly that – loose, and the ending relied on a coincidence, the fact that she just happened to be driving past his house at the time. It ended too abruptly and unsatisfactorily.
So in a nutshell, the writing was beautiful all the way through, the concept was great and the book was amazing for the first 50 per cent. Ten the necessary romance came in, the book changed course immediately, and the ending was dropped on the reader as gently as a ton of rocks. Don’t worry though, it was still good, so I would definitely recommend it. Just don’t take it too seriously.
Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7/10
My Heart and Other Black Holes is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.
- Title: My Heart and Other Black Holes
- Author: Jasmine Wanga
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Harper Collins, Balzer+Bray (February 10, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062324675
- URL: Amazon, Goodreads