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

Book of the Month: A Book of Migrations

abookofmigrations

June’s book of the month selection is something a little bit different.

It is non-fiction. It is travel. But it is a meandering, in-depth sort of travelogue, a scouring of the history, culture, and collective consciousness of a country that managed to capture my own soul: Ireland.

Rebecca Solnit traveled around the country on foot in the early half of the 90s, ruminating on what makes Ireland so Irish. She covers a number of subjects, including ancient history, recent history, many public figures, and the roots of Irish restlessness, from their propensity for bird imagery to the necessity of mass emigration.

Solnit’s prose is not easy, but it is beautiful. She creates shockingly gorgeous sentences that probe to the depths of the matter, and are always concise, yet somehow view the issue from a slightly sidewise angle. I loved the way she made me think so differently about a place that I thought I knew a lot about. She weaves a few stories of her own experiences in the country amidst the other stuff, but those stories really just act as jumping off points for bigger things.

By the end of it, I felt like I understood Ireland a little better, as well as an aspect of myself that I hadn’t known was unknown. Not your average travel book, and definitely worth a look if you like a long, slow, savory reading experience.

What did you read this month? What was your favorite? Least favorite? 

(My least favorite was definitely Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Maguire. We have to stop perpetuating this ridiculous notion that possessive, violent men are sexy. Shudder.)

(Psst! Find the rest of my book of the month recommendations here.)

Book of the Month: A Book of Migrations

Book of the Month: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

beforeifall

I chose this book entirely by accident: I needed something to read on the plane home from Vegas, and this was the first e-book available from my library that I vaguely recognized. Boom, done.

And then I read it, and it decimated my world, guys. (In the best way possible.)

Before I Fall is great for a number of reasons.

  1. It follows the Groundhog’s Day formula without feeling tired or forced. It really works, mostly because no two days feel the same. There is very little non-essential overlap.
  2. The main characters are all complicated, not-entirely-likeable girls. I liked that these girls were allowed to be human beings who were often terrible, but sometimes not, who were regular high school girls who could be wonderful to each other and awful to others, and vice versa, just as easily as breathing. We give a lot of leeway to male anti-heroes but very little to females, which is lame. Unlikeable characters are often the most interesting. I did not like Lindsay at all, but she was certainly the member of the gang who intrigued me the most.
  3. The main characters are all best friends, and the story is about their friendship more than anything, a friendship which is real and dynamic and layered.
  4. The pain of reading it, knowing that there is no way out. That, no matter how many times she Groundhog Days it up, there is no real waking up for Sam. It lends the story an emotional depth that resonated strongly with me.
  5. Sam goes through a strong, believable character arc is the story progresses, going from spoiled, bratty, awfulness to someone with a little bit more awareness and compassion for the people around her. She is certainly no saint by the time the story winds down, but she is markedly different than when we began. It is quite rewarding.

This is quality fiction, y’all. It baffles me how people continue to discount young adult fiction. I find most of the stories I love the most are young adult.

This is where it’s at. 

 

Book of the Month: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver