Published by Balzer & Bray on February 10, 2015
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.
There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.
Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.
This isn’t really a Kim Book.* Although, to be fair, if Kim Books usually involve incredibly heartfelt portrayals of our deepest humanity infused with humor and hope then perhaps I am about that also. Maybe. Every once in awhile a book comes along that crawls right into your heart and rends your ventricles. This is one of those.
[Okay so there are moments where I’ll get a bit meta and personal. In ways that don’t really flow with the review but are important if you’d like an auxiliary/personal touch so I’m putting them behind spoiler brackets. When you see spoiler brackets it’s me being personal.]
This is the story of Aysel (like uh-zell, rhymes with gazelle) who has longed to escape from the shadow of her father’s horrific crime for years. And of Roman who is living with an unimaginable grief. Both live trapped in the mire of isolation and depression. But thankfully, Jasmine Warga’s sparse but elegant prose is here to approach this subject with the gravity it deserves.
View Spoiler »Several quotes kept popping into my mind while I read. One of them was a particularly poignant quote of Ursula K. Leguin’s
“We are each of us alone, to be sure. What can do you but hold your hand out in the dark?” « Hide Spoiler
We have two imperfectly lovable people in Aysel and Roman. Aysel with her bleak but sassy outlook and Roman with his palpable grief. These are two very intimately drawn characters. The book takes place over the span of only 30 or so days but the relationship works because, thanks to its intensity, these two characters are laid bare to each other. I felt like I could see right into the soul of both of them and it made for an acutely emotional read. This is such a truly human story.
The relationship between Aysel and Roman is so tenderly unfolded. As they get to know each other and peel back the layers of their selves one cannot help but be drawn along. I read this story with my heart in my throat and in my hands. I was reaching out to both Aysel and Roman, so desperately wanting to be that hand in the darkness. I felt the heaviness of Aysel’s “black slug.” Of Roman’s incomprehensible despair. Warga manages to flesh two truly formed humans on the page. Depression, grief, heartbreak, anger, and all.
View Spoiler » While writing reviews I like to put on Netflix in the background. This time the show I happened to pick played the song “How to Disappear Completely” by Radiohead. There is no single song that brings me back to exactly how it felt to be a depressed teenager than that one. One listen and I am immediately 17 and lying on my bunk bed in depths of gray and nothingness. I can’t recall this song appearing over much in popular media and it is pretty astonishing that as I was writing this suddenly it was there on my television. I had not listened to it in, literally, years. Then as I was writing this…there it was. « Hide Spoiler
And one of the strongest points of the book is that it does not romanticize depression or suicide. This deeply sympathetic and heartfelt book is one of the most honest portrayals of depression I have ever come across. Yes, Aysel and Roman have an intense relationship that begins to evolve into something more. But I think the book successfully walks the very fine line between making another person the reason to live and that another person can help to show you the reasons why you want to live.
I think it is very true that we don’t necessarily see ourselves clearly. And that this is especially true when we are depressed. Sometimes the perspective of another person can help us to see ourselves in ways we haven’t considered and can be the spark of hope that’s needed.
This is the story of two people in darkness but struggling for the light. It is a story alternating between hope and despair, between humor and tragedy. Do not approach the story looking for extensive plot (though it is perfectly paced). What you will find is an achingly lovely character study of depression, grief, and the paths that will enable one to fight back.
I think when you are stuck at the bottomless black well of depression, and especially when you’re a teenager, it becomes unfathomable that there could ever be anything good in life again. There is a specific moment in this book where the tendrils of hope creeped out of the ether and crawled into my heart. It was as if the story was a burst of light come to scour away the dark parts. I see this book itself as a much needed spark. A hand reaching through the darkness.
This is the sort of book that is going to evoke intensely personal reactions. And I think the reader’s familiarity with depression/suicide and ability to understand what the characters are going through will directly correlate to how it is interpreted. It is a deeply personal book.
View Spoiler »Storytime! So when I was a teenager I had a lot of anxiety (about a lot of things but also this!) about getting a good parking spot at my high school. I was not the world’s best driver and was truly self conscious about my parking skills. I would get to school super early in the morning so I could have my choice of parking spaces. I’d pull right up (in my ‘94 Buick Century-yes, be jealous) to this isolated part of the parking lot by the tennis courts and underneath a copse of pine trees. And many days I would take this specific mix cd and listen to a song called “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” by Broken Social Scene on repeat. I would lay across the passenger seat, staring up at those pine trees, listening to the words of the song. And I would cross my hands over my chest, holding myself together, while I listened and enchanted the words of the song over and over. And it gave me strength. I have loved it long these past 12 years since then. Imagine my surprise when I see the lyrics to this beloved song in the author’s bio for this book I loved. I confirmed. « Hide Spoiler
There are pathways into the light. There can be good in life again. Read this book for its beautiful moments and its dark, painfully honest moments. Read it to know that whatever you’re feeling you are not alone.
View Spoiler »“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”–Sylvia Plath « Hide Spoiler
* Kim Books usually require dragons, badass ladies, forbidden romance, and some variation on a Captain of the Guard. Or vampires.
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