Published by Hodder & Stoughton on February 12th 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?
My Heart & Other Black Holes has been on my shelves for absolutely ages, but as part of my aim to read more books from my shelves I decided to pick it up as my first read of 2020, and it was a good first choice – I was hooked from the beginning and flew through it in 24 hours!
Aysel and Roman, despite being total strangers, meet online and agree to be each other’s suicide partners. While the premise sounds maudlin, and the book opens on a heavy and serious moment, My Heart and Other Black Holes isn’t depressing or saddening but uplifting and hopeful.
“What people never understand is that depression isn’t about the outside; it’s about the inside. Something inside me is wrong. Sure, there are things in my life that make me feel alone, but nothing makes me feel more isolated and terrified than my own voice in my head.”
Of course not everyone experiences depression or suffers with their mental health, and everyone experiences it differently, but I think one of the things that makes My Heart and Other Black Holes such a brilliant read is how Warga manages to convey the way Aysel and Roman are feeling. For various reasons, Aysel and Roman both feel out of options, fed up of live, and driven to consider suicide, but the depression hits each of them differently. Their experiences and feelings, although completely different, feel totally authentic, and it’s impossible to read the book without going through an emotional rollercoaster.
“Anyone who has actually been that sad can tell you that there’s nothing beautiful or literary or mysterious about depression.”
As the book opens, Aysel and Roman have committed to their respective decisions to commit suicide and are searching for a partner to ensure they go through with it. There are some hints about traumatic events they’ve each experienced that have contributed to their feelings of hopelessness but we don’t know what either of them have been through, which gives the book an added mystery element. Throughout the novel we’re wondering both whether they will go through with their plans, and what the events were that went on before we entered their stories. From that original opening mystery, the story flicks back and forth between the countdown to the date they’ve agreed on for their suicide, and events that happened before they met. As time goes on, Aysel and Roman progress from total strangers to people who actually begin to care, and it’s nice to see their relationship grow. What else is really important I think, is that although their relationship does develop and it is a main thread of the story, the book never suggests that a relationship could be a cure for depression.
My Heart and Other Black Holes is an addictive, relatable novel with some brilliantly honest, authentic characters and plenty of emotional moments. While there were some poignant moments that made me cry, there were also plenty of heartwarming moments too, and even a few funny ones. It’s not necessarily a book I’d pick up a time when I was feeling particularly low, but despite the somewhat heavy subject matter, it really is an uplifting story that I’d recommend wholeheartedly.