Content note: this review discusses suicide.
I have a bit of a backlog of books from my bookseller days. In my book shed (yes, this is a thing) I have a box of YA that was sent to the store that no one picked up, because no one else read YA, that got taken home with me and added to the TBR. This year I’ve been working through it slowly, prioritising debuts or prior books from authors with new work coming out.
Jasmine Warga’s second book, Here We Are Now, published in the UK this month so I had scheduled in some time with My Heart and Other Black Holes, her debut.
Perhaps it’s a weird thing to wish for a good novel that looks at suicide, but since I read All the Bright Places, a novel which I did not love for a myriad of reasons mostly to do with pushed boundaries and consent, I’ve wanted to read something that takes a look at suicidal ideation.
A novel about suicide pacts was not what I was expecting. This novel was not what I was expecting.
Aysel is infamous in her small town, shunned for being the daughter of the man who killed the hometown future Olympian. Struggling with the weight of her father’s crimes, Aysel decides she is going to kill herself. However, she’s not sure she wants to do it alone. Through a website that brings suicidal people together, she finds her new partner only one town over, the popular, handsome Roman. As their deadline of April 7th looms closer, Aysel and Roman begin to understand each other on deeper levels. Will they go through with it?
Warga’s depictions of mental illness and suicidal ideation – the reasoning, false logic, the belief that people truly would be better off without you – are unflinchingly accurate. Through Aysel, she explores the darkness that depression forms inside you, a black slug that consumes any positive feelings.
Aysel (pronounced Uh-zell) is a wonderful narrator; darkly comic, sensitive, troubled and drowning. You are instantly drawn to her, and desperate to save her. I enjoyed her friendship and developing romance with Roman, and it felt real, right even, that these two troubled teenagers would find strong emotions amidst the jeopardy they faced.
Saying that, one of the things I loved about this book was that it makes it clear that love cannot solve mental illness. You can love people and you can be suicidal; they cannot cancel each other out. I won’t go into further details as you’ll have to read the book.
My Heart and Other Black Holes is an emotionally complex young adult contemporary novel, that tackles mental illness and suicidal ideation head on and with great maturity. A compelling read that will keep you gripped all the way through as the book counts down to April 7th.
Interested? Get it here.
What to read next:
- They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
- Truth or Dare by Non Pratt
- Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Thank you kindly to the team at Hodder & Staughton who sent this copy to the shop.