December Discussion: My Heart and Other Black Holes

myheartandotherblackholes

Happy December 21! I hope everyone is having a great holiday season. Pull up a chair, wrap your mitts around a warm beverage, and let’s chat about our book. Also, make sure you click the link at the bottom of the post to vote for next month’s book club selection!

Third time’s the charm, I guess, because I really, really liked this book, you guys. I wish that all young adult books – scratch that, all books – dealt with depression and suicide in such a real way.

My thoughts to get the discussion going, but I seriously cannot wait to hear what you guys have to say:

  • Like I mentioned above, I appreciated the realness of Aysel’s depression. I recognized gigantic chunks of myself and my own depressive behavior in her thoughts and actions, and the ways in which her mental illness affected all of those around her. We may think that we don’t matter and that nobody cares about what we are going through and no one would understand, but we are wrong. When her sister, Georgia, says, “I just wish you weren’t so sad all the time,” I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. It is like Aysel says when Roman comes to her house: “Sometimes it takes watching someone else observe how you live to realize how you live.” Real talk, y’all. Real talk.
  • That being said, I was also frustrated by the fact that both Aysel and Roman had these huge, traumatic events that happened to them that were the impetus for their depression. While traumatic events such as a sibling dying or a parent being incarcerated can, of course, be precipitating factors in the development of mental illness, they don’t have to be, and I wish that Jasmine Warga had chosen to give a huge event like that to only one of them, so that we could also see that depression affects “normal” people, too, whose father never murdered anyone and who didn’t leave their sister to die in a bathtub, which is, honestly, much more often the case. But I did like the fact that Roman was popular and handsome and, from all appearances, not someone that Aysel expected to want to die. Depression doesn’t give a shit how many friends you have or if you are great at basketball.
  • I was, to be honest, a bit disappointed that their relationship took a romantic turn. I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, and I absolutely agree that love and acceptance are the best antidotes to the cruelty and isolation of the depressed mind, but it would have been so nice to see a friendship do the saving, instead of a romantic relationship.
  • It was interesting to see, as Aysel rediscovered her will to live, how she had to watch everything she said and did in order to keep it from Roman because she didn’t want to disappoint him, and she knew that he would be upset if he found out. He proved that on several occasions, with his emotional reactions to any tiny indication that she might be turning into “a flake.” He wanted to keep her depressed so that he wasn’t alone; he wanted to keep her depressed so that he still had someone who understood him. And Aysel wanted that, too, she just couldn’t stay that way. When he says to her, during their camping trip, “I can’t make you happy. We can’t let each other make each other happy,” he is really saying, ‘We need to cling to our sadness and shun any possibility of hope. Our sadness is what makes us who we are.’ Seeing his shift in perspective at the end was a little bit too much of an about-face for me, but I also felt like it didn’t really stretch credibility. Having found someone who loves him and accepts him for every dark piece of him, I truly believe that he may have had second thoughts about wanting to die. And his proclamation that living is going to be hard as hell? Bang on.
  • The use of physics as a through-line was really cool. I liked that Aysel was a science nerd, and physics was the perfect companion for all the death and depression going on. Alternate universes, string theory, the theory of relativity… Thematically appropriate, yes?

Now. NOW! To the comments, my pretties, so I can hear what you thought!

(Psst. Click here for the January book selection poll.)

December Discussion: My Heart and Other Black Holes

5 thoughts on “December Discussion: My Heart and Other Black Holes

  1. Jeri says:

    I also enjoyed this book. At least, most of it. I felt the author did a good job of explaining how depression feels and how difficult it is to explain to other people in your life. However, about 2/3 of the way through I found that it started to get contrived. After that it was like Wanga had her eye on the ending, cure Aysel (almost overnight) by discovering that she cares for Roman. Unrealistic in my view. And Aysel’s family situation is left unresolved.
    I also enjoyed the use of physics and other classes, like English, to further the story line. “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” John Milton, p. 275. I felt Aysel’s perspective make a final change here.
    I would certainly recomment this novel to others to read and will be promoting it at the library. I agree that it deals with depression and suicidal thoughts in a (mostly) believable way.

    1. Jeri, I totally agree that Aysel’s ‘turn around’ is ridiculous. I have had one major depressive episode in my life that went on for nearly two years, and it most certainly did not disappear over night just because I realized I cared about someone!!

    2. Valerie says:

      Hi Jeri,

      I agree with the quick turnaround. There did not seem to be time or space for in depth plot and character development. Is this typical of YA books unless the author writes a series? I enjoy ‘character’ novels. I adore Harry Potter because we get so much time to grow with him. I would have loved to delve into Aysel’s background more.
      Valerie

  2. Valerie says:

    Well, I did finish this a while ago so have had time to digest my thoughts. I really enjoyed the book although when I first started it I thought it was going to be ‘flaky.’ The idea of a suicide buddy bothered me to no end. I kept thinking that if you aren’t committed enough to do this on your own, do you really want to do it? To me, a buddy of any kind is there to impress upon you your intrinsic human value; to help you reinforce your will to live – not to hold your hand while you jump. I also thought Aysel’s reason for wanting to die was a little ‘flaky.’ Sorry if that offends anyone but having come from somewhat of a dysfunctional background, I just can’t reconcile ‘bad genes’ with suicide. I am a believer in the ability to love those that are flawed without projecting those weaknesses and flaws onto yourself, even though they originate paternally (or maternally). So if Aysel’s reason for wanting to end her life did not really cut it for me, Roman’s definitely did. As a parent, each decision I make that may end in tragedy weighs heavily. As I get older, it weighs heavier. As a teenager having to deal with the ramifications of his decision, well I guess I can just sympathize with his despair. I would have liked a little more character development of the Moms (being a Mom and all) and Aysel’s siblings. They seem to understand and love her without her really knowing it.
    I agree with your disappointment about the romance thing. Friendship is where it is at although I am sure the author would have made the buddy a girl if there was not going to be a romance angle.
    Love you Jess. Can’t wait for the next one.

  3. Carlia says:

    I was hesitant to read this book, I didn’t want to read something that on first glance was about a “closeted” not very upbeat topic and definitely not around the holiday season. When I picked my copy up from the Library it took some prompting from Jeri for me to see the overall value that could come from reading this book, and in doing so not just because I had to for book club. Although I went into it with some hesitation I found myself enjoying it. I can definitely see the value to this book and agree with everyone’s comments.

    My only downside, which I think Jessica touched on well was “the fact that both Aysel and Roman had these huge, traumatic events that happened to them that were the impetus for their depression… I wish that Jasmine Warga had chosen to give a huge event like that to only one of them, so that we could also see that depression affects “normal” people, too”. Well said and spot on!

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