I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Hodder on 12th February 2015
Aysel and Roman are practically strangers, but they've been drawn into an unthinkable partnership. In a month's time, they plan to commit suicide - together.
Aysel knows why she wants to die: being the daughter of a murderer doesn't equal normal, well-adjusted teenager. But she can't figure out why handsome, popular Roman wants to end it all....and why he's even more determined than she is.
With the deadline getting closer, something starts to grow between Aysel and Roman - a feeling she never thought she would experience. It seems there might be something to live for, after all - but is Aysel in so deep she can't turn back?
I resisted the urge to write this post immediately after reading the book. Instead, I’ve waited a week and allowed myself the time to think it through.
This novel tackles the often taboo subject of suicide. I feel there’s always a risk of glamorising suicide in a story like this, but for me Warga avoids that risk. She has created a work of fiction that many will be able to relate to, a work of fiction that friends and family of depression sufferers should read.
First of all let’s talk about the characters. Aysel is a teenager whose father’s actions have overshadowed her life. She’s a social outcast; even her Mum and her family don’t want anything to do with her. She fears she is like her Dad, that she’ll end up like him. Ending her life would remove that risk.
Warga builds a very interesting character in Aysel. Through Aysel Warga addresses depression, loneliness, social exclusion and a fear of replicating the mistakes of one’s parents (I’m sure there is a word for that but I can’t think of it right now). All these issues bundled up into one young girl, a girl who is very clever and could offer so much in the world.
We follow the story through the eyes of Aysel. She is a character that many people will be able to relate to. Although I did not suffer depression as a youth, I have since faced my own battle with the illness. For me, I found some of Warga’s descriptions very easy to relate to. In fact I took a photo of several pages because the words describe it better than I ever could.
“I bet if you cut open my stomach, the black slug of depression would slide out. Guidance counselors always love to say, “Just think positively,” but that’s impossible when you have this thing inside of you, strangling every ounce of happiness you can muster. My body is an efficient happy-thought-killing machine.”
That “black slug of depression” is a concept that Warga uses throughout the book, and I find it particularly powerful.
Aysel goes online and finds a suicide partner who lives locally, a boy her age called Roman. Warga cleverly introduces Roman as a popular boy, one who has/had lots of friends, one who once excelled at basketball. On the surface this boy appears to have everything that Aysel doesn’t and yet he too wants to kill himself.
Through Roman Warga addresses the fact that depression doesn’t discriminate, anyone can suffer from depression, even the popular kids. She also incorporates guilt into Roman’s character, another excellent addition.
I found the dynamic between Aysel and Warga very interesting. These two kids that might not typically have been friends but for their common feelings, their ultimate goals. These kids are supporting each other, helping each other to go through with it, to commit suicide. At least that’s the plan.
I can’t not mention Roman’s Mum. Aysel hadn’t wanted to know Roman’s family; that would just make everything harder. However she meets his Mum, a kind, caring lady and suddenly everything becomes more complicated. Though Aysel’s own family may not care about her, Roman has a mother who does. Can she support Roman’s suicide when she knows the woman whose heart will be devastated by his death?
There are so many issues in this book, I foresee a lot of people relating to it. Aside from those issues though is a story that will leave you captivated. From the obvious, will they or won’t they fulfil their pact, to that page-turning obsession with finding out what Aysel’s father had done. I HAD to know.
Warga’s writing style really made this novel for me. Some of her descriptions and metaphors are brilliant, they tugged at my heart. She’s an extremely talented lady and I can’t believe this is her debut novel! I will most definitely be looking out Jasmine Warga’s future work.
I think this book is a must read for a wide range of people. From those who battle depression, to those whose loved ones suffer from depression, or even just that teenager who sees something ‘off’ in one of their peers, this book will open eyes, generate awareness and touch the heart.
Keep your eyes peeled for an EXCLUSIVE post from Jasmine Warga on strupag.com this Saturday, you won’t want to miss it!
My Heart and Other Black Holes is available in paperback from 12th February 2015, RRP £6.99.