My Heart and Other Black Holes

320p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062324672; ebk. ISBN 9780062324696.
Gr 9 Up—Aysel Seran suffers from severe depression and is haunted by and ostracized on account of an act of violence that her father committed three years ago. She and the "black slug" inside her are convinced that suicide is her best and most sensible option. Although she doesn't interact much with other people, concern about her latent self-preservation instincts leads her to partner up with Roman, another suicidal teen from the next town over. As they plan their suicide pact, however, her doubts begin to increase. Warga's debut, written (according to the author's note) after the loss of a close friend, often feels heavy-handed, especially when using physics (Aysel's a nerd and Warga has worked as a science teacher) as an emotional metaphor. Overall, the book addresses serious issues with complexity and humor, and allows the overlapping situational and chemical causes of the characters' depression and isolation to coexist in a very real and murky way. Aysel is a tough but likable character, at once jaded and appealingly naive. She's also Turkish, a daughter of immigrants in a largely white, small Kentucky town, a circumstance that the author presents without making it the focus of the narrative. The other characters are less developed, even Roman, who falls a little flat, but all are thoughtfully presented. A list of suicide and depression resources are appended.—Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library
Sixteen-year-old Aysel has decided to kill herself; she connects with an online “Suicide Partner,” seventeen-year-old Roman. As the two spend time together, Aysel reconsiders. Debut author Warga tackles the grim subject matter with empathy and honesty, without trivializing her protagonists' disturbing thoughts or emotions. At the same time, it's clear that both teens have much to live for, not least an endearing romance. Websites.
Sixteen-year-old Aysel has decided to kill herself. Ever since her mentally ill father committed a horrible crime three years ago, she can't escape the "black slug of depression." Not trusting herself to follow through, she connects with a "Suicide Partner" on an online forum. Roman is seventeen, lives in a nearby Kentucky town, and is adamant that they die in less than a month (chapters count down: "26 days left"). At first Aysel is on board with the deadline, but as she and Roman spend more time together, she reconsiders, acknowledging that she wants a future -- and that Roman is "no longer the person I want to die with; he's the person I want to be alive with." It's a relief that Aysel -- who's likable even in the depths of her depression, with a sharp sense of humor and a passion for physics -- changes her mind; readers will worry that Roman, overcome with guilt after a tragic accident, won't do the same. Debut author Warga unflinchingly tackles the grim subject matter with empathy, sensitivity, and honesty, without trivializing her protagonists' disturbing thoughts or emotions. At the same time, it's clear that both Aysel and Roman have much to live for: not least a "cheesy as hell" (in Aysel's words) yet utterly endearing romance. An author's note urging readers with suicidal thoughts to seek help and a list of suicide prevention hotlines and websites are appended. rachel l. smith

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