My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Aysel wants to die. Her dad murdered someone at her school. Her parents have been divorced since she was one year old. She now lives with her mom who has started her own life that doesn’t seem to make room for Aysel. Aysel’s mom even has new kids. Aysel kind of likes her half brother and sister, but she doesn’t feel welcome. She feels sad. The kind that is a like a little black slug that eats all your emotions. She works at a call center because it is the only place that will give her a job, even though her boss hates her and is afraid of her. Everyone at school hates her too. It seems like everyone in town is waiting for Aysel to blow up and turn into her father too. Aysel doesn’t even trust that it won’t happen. Which is why she decides to take herself out the equation.

She thinks it will be easier if she had someone to help her. So she recruits a suicide partner from the website Smooth Passages. She finally finds someone who isn’t creepy and old, who isn’t a soccer mom with children she’ll feel guilty over, and is someone that lives in the next town over (which is hard in the po-dunk Kentucky town she is stuck in). She finds Frozen Robot, or just Roman.

They meet to plan their suicide together, make it easier, and make sure they don’t back out. Except as Aysel gets to know Roman, she starts to like him, and wants to make him like himself again. That means backing out of their pact. And that probably won’t go too smoothly. Plus, after she’s ruined his dreams of dying, how could he ever love her back?

This is a romantic dramedy if I ever saw one. But it’s also about identity and differentiating yourself from traumatic events and even your own family members. We are not who we are raised by. We are not our mistakes. But then, who are we? How do you have a loving relationship with someone who doesn’t love themselves? How do you tell a mother that is afraid of you that you are afraid of you? I love the questions about life that this book contemplates while being a sweet, albeit dark love story.

Aysel is diverse, awkward, brooding and complex. She starts out introspective but flawed. The story draws out her courage and spirit. She is a very likeable and (strangely) relatable. We’ve all had times that we didn’t feel understood by our parents. We’ve all been shunned by others at some point. While this book takes it to extremes it also remains down to Earth. All the main characters are well developed and even the secondary characters will rack you with guilt over what the characters are planning unbeknownst to them.

That said, there is a lot of suspense, although it is more dramatic than action-packed. The storyline is more character-driven and issue-oriented. The plot is not fast-paced but it intensifies as you read it. The tone is angst-filled and bittersweet. The book starts bleak and darkly humorous and slowly the sun starts to enter even while the character’s problems worsen. It’s a great mix of elements. Heartwrenching may be the word.

The book makes the issue of teen suicide accessible. I like how this is one of the only books where a teen gets talked off the ledge by herself and doesn’t need to be in a hospital or have adults run everything. I think even though that might be ill-advised in real life, it’s empowering here. I LOVED the last scene. I like the oxymoron of suicide partners to explain how hard it is for people who are depressed like this. I thought this was a candid but sweet and hopeful look at teen suicide and depression.