“I once read in my physics book that the universe begs to be observed, that energy travels and transfers when people pay attention. Maybe that’s what love really boils down to–having someone who cares enough to pay attention so that you’re encouraged to travel and transfer, to make your potential energy spark into kinetic energy.”
This past week I stumbled upon a young adult novel that interested me enough to listen to the audiobook. When a YA book makes an attempt to delve into a deep, dark subject, I am almost always intrigued by it.
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga talks about teenagers who truly, actually want to die. They have experienced horrible events in their life and are depressed enough to want to end it all with suicide. The story follows a young Turkish girl named Aysel, whose father is in prison for murder. The town looks down on her because of her father and she has no one to turn to. She has a very real depression that I could relate to and understand.
During these struggles, she is in a physics class that teaches her about energy. While wishing to die she struggles with the idea that energy can be transferred, but never destroyed. What happens when she dies? To the energy of her life?
She decides that she can’t kill herself alone, she needs a ‘suicide partner.’ By stumbling upon a forum online, she discovers a young man her age named Roman. Roman also wants to kill himself for personal reasons, and even has a specific date that he wants to do it- April 7th.
Aysel and Roman become closer over the course of the month that they have before April 7th arrives. They discover the horrible, twisted things that have brought them to this point, and more about each other and themselves than they thought they would.
So, initially, for the first 75% of the book at least, I loved it. The depression was extremely brutal and realistic, ESPECIALLY for a book geared towards a young audience. The author tackles tricky conversations about mental illness, crime, and the difficulties of growing up when no one is there for you very well.
*This part of the review contains some spoilers*
For me, the issue I had came in about three quarters of the way through this novel. Aysel very quickly ‘recovers’ from this deep depression she is suffering, and her whole outlook on life has changed. She realizes that life IS worth living, mostly because she has found this boy who listens to her and understands her feelings.
I understand the appeal of writing the story this way. It made the ending a whole lot easier to stomach and it gave the reader hope at the conclusion of this book. However, I am uncomfortable with the idea that Aysel was able to almost completely change her outlook on life overnight without ever having a conversation with an adult or professional, or seeking any kind of mental health advice. It just seems dangerous for such a young audience to read something like that.
While Roman’s mental health issues stayed consistent throughout the entire novel (even throughout the hopeful ending), Aysel’s did not. It did not ring true for me, and I couldn’t understand the immediate and sudden change that this character had.
The idea that this young, depressed girl would immediately ‘perk up’ and get over her very serious issues after meeting a handsome boy who feels the same way is dangerous and I can’t support it.
Depression doesn’t come and go like this. Mental illness takes hard work, perseverance, and people by your side to help you. I would only never recommend this book to someone younger to me because I thought the ending portrayed the exact opposite sentiment.
If you have read this book, I would love to hear your thoughts and whether or not you agree or disagree!