Saturday, 28 March 2015

Book Talk #1: My Heart & Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Title: My Heart and Other Black Holes
Author: Jasmine Warga
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published by: Harper Collins
Published in: 10th February 2015
Content warning: Depression, suicide
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
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.
          Wanted to do something a little different than my usual reviewing because this is truly a different kind of book compared to what I usually read. I've never read books with suicide as their theme so it felt very foreign and I never know what to expect. Also I get affected by sad things too easily and that is why I avoid these kinds of books LIKE THE PLAGUE. As you can tell now, this book meddled with my emotions like how a kid meddles with play dough and I am way to EMOTIONALLY BIASED to review this book. So I'm just gonna talk about it.

          Before I move on, I would like to get this out of the way and admit that I am clinically depressed. I've been diagnosed with the illness 2 years ago, and am now in the process of recovering. It has been a challenging journey, and I can never predict how the chemicals in my brain would react everyday, but I try to take on each day one moment at a time. Please note that I am not confessing this to seek any sympathy or attention. I just wanted to talk about this book from my perspective as someone with depression. More importantly, if any of you out there reading this are in fact depressed, do not be ashamed of it. People fall ill sometimes, albeit physically or mentally, and that's the way life is. I never understood why it is such a stigma in every society and I probably never will.

          In case you did not know what this book is about and you did not read the synopsis: My Heart & Other Black Holes is about Aysel (rhymes with "gazelle"), a depressed teenager who has been thinking about committing suicide for some time. She frequents this website called "Smooth Passages", which has a section that allows users to search for a suicide partner to end their life together. She meets Roman who is also searching for a partner. Turns out Roman is her age and they live in the same town. So they make a pact to die on April 7th as requested by Roman, and the book depicts their lives and its moments counting down towards that day.

          Let me warn you that if you are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, this book has triggers all over the place. It will inevitably affect you and how you are feeling. Even if you are not struggling with any mental illness, it will still affect you in some way. I was alright before starting this book and at certain points I had to stop reading for abit because I could not take the wave of gloom and indisposition to push harder at life just crashing all over in my head. It indeed brought me down to a black hole and I thought "how fitting" because you know, THE TITLE HAS THAT. And I credit the author for bringing me to emotioal shambles. Her writing is superb. It was eloquent and free-flowing, with the occasional awkward pit-stops that fits the mood of the whole plot, which is being unsure of the decisions one makes. Her description of being in that state of bearing the illness with your brittle shoulders was accurate 70% of the time and that is not easy to achieve if you are not a good writer.

           Aysel and Roman. OMG they were my BABIES OKAY. They were already teenagers with hormones and futures to figure out, now with the addition of their tragedy-stricken state of life... I have no words. It was completely heart-wrenching to read about the events made them the way they are, how the decisions and actions of others in the past are adversely impacting their lives, stripping away any hope of a bright and happy NEAR future. Both Aysel and Roman's depression was triggered by  particular tragic occurences. While they had no fault in those occurences, they carried it together with them, all TEN THOUSAND POUNDS OF IT, and it is crushing them, depleting them of the will to live.

          I actually felt for Roman more. His goal of ending his own life was such a constant throughout the book. Can you imagine how scary and overwhelming the thought of suicide can be? And to bear it with you every single day till the day you are supposed to put it into action? His determination was so set in stone it just made my skin crawl. This boy was wrestling with his tragedy and losing badly. Not to undermine Aysel's situation. Hers was just different. She was more prone to character development. As she befriends Roman and peels back those complicated layers, she matures and starts to question her decision to die. She became less focused and trapped in her own darkness and began to notice what life still has to offer. That did not happen to Roman. He thought that there was no chance to redeem himself and no way to escape this torment, and unfortunately, that is what many people have to live with in real life.

          Paramount has actually secured movie rights to My Heart & Other Black Holes, so there might be a possible chance this would be turned into a film. I just hope that it doesn't romanticise and commercialise depression and suicide or take away the spotlight from these themes. I would not want a movie about Aysel and Roman growing infatuated with each other despite wanting to kill themselves. I want a movie about these two kids (I say that like I'm so old heh) dealing with depression and facing the countdown to their double suicide day in a completely realistic and straight-forward way. Although I find that Aysel and Roman meeting each other, who happened to be the same age with each other and lived within 15 minutes with each other is a little far from realistic but that's not the point. I WANT REPRESENTATION PEOPLE.

           I was glad I got to finish the book. I think anyone who started this one definitely needs to finish it in order to achieve some form of closure. It would not be good to DNF this book halfway, while you are stuck in the gloom fog, because I promise that if you continue, that fog will not stay long. I know that in real life, it probably does not go away as easily or in such a short amount of time, and sometimes it might even grow thicker,but one thing I'm sure is that the gloom fog will certainly not stay.

Have you read this book and if you have, what are your thoughts about it? :)

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