BOOK REVIEW: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine WargaMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
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Synopsis:

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.

  “Be careful,” he says.
“Why?” I’m not thinking about being careful. I’m thinking about one last push, of letting go, of flying, and of falling.
You aren’t allowed to die without me,” he whispers.

*Indiscernible noise* Did you hear that? What’s that, you ask? That noise….what is that noise??? Let me tell you what that noise is: That’s the sound of my heart beating, my soul soaring, my spirits shining blindingly bright, my fangirl screeching….That, my lovely Goodread friends, is the sound of me falling head over heels in love with yet another book.

But no, hear me out. This isn’t simply just a book, this is the book that I have been staring at for months…MONTHS. I don’t do sad books, ya hear? Never. Nada. No way, Jose. I HATE SOBBING UNCONTROLLABLY for senseless sadness with no happy ending-Capiche? But for some reason…this book continued to call to me. I won’ t lie and say it has the best reviews ever-it doesn’t. I also won’t go so far as to say it has horrible reviews-it really, truly doesn’t. What we have here, folks, is a case of what you are looking for in a book and what you are willing to accept in a book. I guess…I guess I just didn’t know what I was looking for. When I saw this book, it was insta-love at it’s finest. Chelsea sees cover, Chelsea falls in love. Simple. Chelsea reads blurb? Chelsea falls in love….except for that teeny tiny detail, hmm, what was it? Oh yeah-this book centered around two suicidal teens. Yikes…Heavy much?

Depression is like a heaviness that you can’t ever escape. It crushes down on you, making even the smallest things like tying your shoes or chewing on toast seem like a twenty-mile hike uphill. Depression is a part of you; it’s in your bones and your blood. If I know anything about it, this is what I know: It’s impossible to escape.

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So what did I do next? I did what I always do: I researched the shit out of this book. But not before I hastily exited out of the browser once I saw ‘suicide pact.’ I will admit I’m a morbidly curious person, and I refuse to read sad, overly-hyped books simply because I don’t want to cry into my cheerios for the hell of it. I’ve never understood the people who can do that shit over and over again…I mean, fuck, don’t we have enough sadness in this world? Why put yourself through that? I still don’t get it-even now. And yet….After jumping out of the browsing history, I found myself relentlessly going back to this book every week or two-It was like clockwork. So, like a stupid cat, I let my curiosity get the best of me and I began my extensive (yet careful-I’ve mastered the art of being thorough in my research without spoiling MUAHAHA) research on whether this book was ‘Chelsea safe’. My head told me stay away, continually. But my heart wanted more.

I spend a lot of time wondering what dying feels like. What dying sounds like. If I’ll burst like those notes, let out my last cries of pain, and then go silent forever. Or maybe I’ll turn into a shadowy static that’s barely there, if you just listen hard enough.

My point? After months and months and weeks and weeks of being a total poonanner about this book, I took the plunge-I one clicked the sonuvabitch and set a date to read it. I was nervous, admittedly, being the way I am about my book characters. Anyone who knows me, even a little, knows I find a deep, visceral connection with them-Almost always. And, even more so, I add new bbfs to my list like, well, books to my TBR pile. So, getting back to the point of me getting to the point-I am so glad I listened to my heart.

My whole face burns and my stomach clenches and unclenches like a fist. It’s not like I feel guilty-after all, it’s not my fault her son wants to kill himself. But I didn’t exactly want to meet his family. This is the soccer mom problem I was trying to avoid. Two strikes against FrozenRobot-a pet turtle and a loving mom. If I were pickier, I’d say he had too much baggage. But considering my situation, I’m in no position to be choosy.

This book was something special to me. No, I don’t have a history with depression, nor do I really, truly know someone who suffers from it. You can call me out on this, that’s for sure. But I think there are so many books where people can cry ‘You don’t know anything about […] so how can you say this is good or bad or accurate?’ Well, I can’t-But what I can tell you is how beautiful it was. How the writing flowed seamlessly from page to page and pulled you in so deep you felt like you were wading in honey because it was so smooth and flawless and, shockingly….sweet. This book, this book I had avoided for months on end because I thought the darkness would swallow me whole, was sweet.

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And this is exactly why Roman didn’t want a flake. But he ended up with a flake. A grade-A flake. Though, it’s his fault. He’s the one who turned me into one.

But how can that be, you ask?? This book is about two depressed teens who have a literal date set to commit suicide. And God do I know that it feels wrong to talk about this like its no big deal because ‘it’s just a book.’ No, it’s not like that to me. It’s a big deal-Suicide is not a joke. It’s not about fictionalizing a dark, heavy matter for the sake of making some money for a story, it’s not about shedding fake, positive light about something that families suffer from every day, and it breaks my heart that people actually feel this way. To feel like there is no way out, that the only answer for suffering is to end your life-I don’t take that shit lightly, and it kills me that people don’t find that help they need before it’s too late. But this is a book, and I guess if I had to say one thing about it…..it felt real. It felt wholly authentic to me, and not once did I feel it was contrived or misplaced in it’s message. It was dark, morbid, and relentless in the ultimate end result-they wanted to do this, and not a chapter went by without this reminder. But it was also so full of hope, humor, longing, and a desire for things to be different than they were/are.

All of a sudden, I realize what that shadowy something is. It’s joy. FrozenRobot loves basketball. He loves playing it. No matter how hard he tries to push that joy away, it’s there. I wonder if joy has potential energy. Or if there is potential energy that leads to joy, like a happiness serum that lingers in people’s stomachs and slowly bubbles up to create the sensation we know as happiness.

And I think that is ultimately why this book called to me even as all the others repelled me-I’m not out to get some sick kick from these teenagers’ suffering. I felt the hope shining through all the darkness…and I saw that there was a possible happy ending for these two. Most of the books you see with this subject matter scream ‘You. Will. Cry.’ And, again, that’s not why I choose to read. I choose to read because I want to escape reality and find solace in the pages of something that I know nothing about, if only to expand my mind in ways I never dreamed possible. And that is the definition of this book for me-While I have never suffered from depression myself, I feel, if only a little bit, like I got a good, hard look into the mind of two young teens who were depressed…And now, just maybe, I’ll think twice before discarding these signs in the future. I felt a deep, visceral connection not only to Aysel, but to Roman, as well. These two were beyond words to me-I loved them for their beautiful, broken minds. I cried for their vulnerability and aches so deep that the pain was unbearable-but invisible to the eye. And I hated them for their selfishness-for not seeing the effect they were going to have on other people when they were gone. But, admittedly, I didn’t hate them-not even a little bit, not even at all. 😉 (Eh? Eh? Name that moviiiie)

I guess he’s right: I am a flake. But maybe meeting Roman has helped me to understand myself better. Yes, I’m broken. And yes, he’s broken. But the more we talk about it, the more we share our sadness, the more I start to believe that there could be a chance to fix us, a chance that we could save each other.

Now that I’ve lost the majority of you (Come back? Pleeeease?) I absolutely have to talk about these characters who touched my soul. Like Aysel, the girl who had no one to turn to at her darkest hour, who feared what she would become because of her father’s actions; the girl who walked through the hallways trying to dodge the whispering and murmurs and venomous accusations. This young girl who, despite what we are always taught…saw no other way out. Aysel was a dark person-and with that darkness was a humor that somehow managed to lighten her. Her mind, while toxic with her intentions, was a quirky minefield of intelligent musings about physics and classical music. While it was harsh at first to hear how bleak she was about what her life was leading to, I eventually found solace in her mind because she really and truly was an intelligent and accomplished girl who had so much to live for…Even if she couldn’t see it.

He’s no longer FrozenRobot, my suicide partner from the internet. He’s Roman, the boy who kissed me by the river and held me all night. To me, there’s a difference. A big difference. He’s no longer the person I want to die with; he’s the person I want to be alive with.

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And then Roman-Aka FrozenRobot. Lmao, while the name probably isn’t supposed to be funny, Aysel’s quips about it inside her mind cracked me up from the moment we first see that name. But, seriously-My dear, tortured Roman. Roman was by far the darkest of the two-The most serious, the most dedicated to what was coming…the most determined to follow through….it was tragic. It feels weird and wrong to say I was obsessed with Roman but…I was. His pain and heartache were palpable from the moment we first meet him. But, even more than that, he wasn’t what you’d expect: Popular, athletic, and smothered with love from an overprotective mother. I just…I can’t. I can’t even. I adored him. I adored his story. I adored his personality, his kindness, his protectiveness of Aysel, and his longing to know her…even as the days before their pact wore down like sand in an hourglass.

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I wonder if that’s how darkness wins, by convincing us to trap it inside ourselves, instead of emptying it out.

People might even say I’m belittling the story’s message by saying how much I loved their romance-I don’t give a fuck. This romance was heart-stopping, butterfly inducing, I-can’t-breathe-because-of-the-feels addicting…and I’m not ashamed nor embarrassed to tout that. I believe, despite the probably unpopular opinion, that the romance is what made them begin to heal-what gave them hope. Hope that someone finally understood them, understood the pain of what it feels like to be utterly crushed and like your soul was being sucked into a black vortex of nothingness every single day of your life. Romance doesn’t solve the whole world’s problems…but finding a friend who understands you, who loves you for who you are? I believe, in my heart of hearts, that this makes a huge difference in a person’s well-being-depressed or not. That’s MY opinion, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I adored them togetherand I adored them separately. Their message stirred something deep inside of me, and I won’t likely forget it for a long time. When Aysel starts to realize life just might be worth living….will she be able to pull Roman off the ledge before it’s too late?

“You’re like a gray sky. You’re beautiful, even though you don’t want to be.”

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I’m not going to spoil their fates…that would be wrong of me. But I think it needs to be said that, not every book has to end in tragedy to make a big impact or for you to love it-and I know most people aren’t like that-like me, and my closest friends, for instance. But I must say, I see the best ratings popping up for tragic books. And let me ask you this….if that person hadn’t died or this or that hadn’t happened….Would it still have been epic in your eyes? Unforgettable? Astounding? I see this a lot and I just had to say that. This book, whether tragic or not, was alluring and addicting from page one. There was never a dull or boring moment, and the story never dragged. The writing flowed smoothly and the book was over in a blur-it was never a chore to finish this, even as the scary possibility of what was to come drew nearer. Quite the opposite, in fact. I literally, I kid you not, could. Not. Stop. Thinking. About. This. Book. It was midnight when I picked it up, and had to put it down at 50%-literally, I had to force myself-to savor the last 50%. I wasn’t even tired. I just couldn’t ruin what was possibly one of my favorite books this year by cramming it all into one late night sitting.

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Everything used to seem so final, inevitable, predestined. But now I’m starting to believe that life may have more surprises in store than I ever realized. Maybe it’s all relative, not just light and time like Einstein theorized, but everything. Like life can seem awful and unfixable until the universe shifts a little and the observation point is altered, and then suddenly, everything seems more bearable.

So, it’s all up to what you’re looking for, really. Me? I was looking for something to touch me on a deeper level, looking for something that made me feel-and not in the perilous kind of way, for once. I just wanted authentic, real characters who had actual problems….and I got it. I will never support the real act-It’s just my personal belief-but this book….it touched my heart in ways I never imagined possible. And for that, I will be eternally grateful. (Again, name that movviieee :P)

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