My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

January 22, 2015 2015, 5 star books, contemporary, giveaway, Kim 57 ★★★★★

My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + GiveawayMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Published by Balzer & Bray on February 10, 2015
Genres: contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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five-stars
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.

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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.

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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.

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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 »
 
* Kim Books usually require dragons, badass ladies, forbidden romance, and some variation on a Captain of the Guard. Or vampires.

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Win an ARC of My Heart and Other Black Holes!

Thanks to our friends at Epic Reads and Balzer + Bray, one of our readers will win an advance copy of MY HEART ( You must know how much fun I have had referencing this book as “MY HEART” in conversation and in text. It’s been a lot.)

All you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re specifically excited about reading this book.

Open to residents of the US and Canada aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. See entry form for complete details. Good luck!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review and giveaway.

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Have I convinced you? Do you need to get this book in your hands? (Yes, you do. You really, really do.)

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57 Responses to “My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway”

  1. Alex

    Wow, this book sounds really good. I, like you, am a very big fan of fantasy novels, but sometimes I do read YA novels, especially ones like this book. A read a book a few months ago called “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock” by Mathew Quick (you should definitely check it out) and that seems to have a slightly similar story (the only thing the same is that the main character wants to commit suicide, so it’s not completely the same). I actually really liked “Leonard Peacock” for simply the themes that it produced, and I hope “My Heart and Other Black Holes” brings to light taboo topics through it’s themes. I will definitely be putting this on my to read list! Another great review Kim!
    Alex recently posted…mariethelibrarian:YES THE UNBELIEVABLE HAS HAPPENED I HAVE WELL…

  2. Amanda Aung

    I have been waiting for a new contemporary novel to have me wanting to read it all in one sitting and I think I have found it :) Thank you

  3. Amanda Aung

    I have been waiting for a new contemporary novel to have me wanting to read it all in one sitting and I think I have found it :) Thank you

  4. Christine

    I’m both scared and intrigued by this book. I’ve heard that this book is cry-worthy… hmmm

    • Kim

      I’m not really a book crier so take my word with a grain of salt-I didn’t cry. BUT I can see this very much being a tearjerker. It’s a very emotional read, but (hopefully) not quite as sad as you may fear!
      Kim recently posted…I Was Here: Review

    • Kim

      It’s not just you! Just looking at our front page there are THREE suicide books right now. And I think of those three this one is definitely the best one. I totally get you, though. I’ve had more than enough heavy books to get me through the greater part of this year now!
      Kim recently posted…I Was Here: Review

  5. Mithila

    So the thing is that I read “I Was Here” by Gayle Forman in January, and was very disappointed. This looks like this could be Meg’s side of the story before she committed suicide, and, morbidly, I’m kind of intrigued on how this whole scheme would go down.
    Mithila recently posted…Photo

    • Kim

      This book is much better than I WAS HERE which I just reviewed the other day and I did *not* at all like. Whereas I WAS HERE is bleak and cloudy and often without hope, this book is threaded with hope and is an all around lovely read. They’re very different books. This one is a lot better. Trust me.
      Kim recently posted…I Was Here: Review

  6. E

    What a thoughtful review – thank you Kim. I’m not eligible for the giveaway (UK) but I think I’ll be looking out for it. With some experience with depression and darkness myself, I always like to read books that portray it honestly but do not romanticise it – this sounds like it has the right balance, which is actually a hard one to balance. I am currently listening to “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” – I can see why as a teenager you listened to it on repeat!

    Thank you – this is one I am looking forward to. (if only I lived across the pond!)
    E recently posted…Mr B’s Reading Year – Hideous Creatures

    • Kim

      Please do look out for this one. I thought it was such a special read about two lost people making a connection and holding onto each other in the darkness. Sometimes you just need that one hand extended, you know? Makes all the difference.

      Oh I’m so thrilled you listened to (and liked!) “Anthems.” There is a companion song called “Pitter Patter Goes My Heart” that is basically an instrumental version of Anthems.” You should definitely give that one a list too-it’s beautiful!

      And dang-that pond can be tricky, can’t it. We doooooo have an international giveaway going on right now, though, for A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES. Linking below. :D
      Kim recently posted…A Love Letter to Sarah J. Maas + Giveaway

  7. Hayden Marie

    I can’t wait to read this! I’ve heard such good things across the board about this book from many sources. Thanks for hosting this!

  8. April

    I’ve been trying to branch out and try more realistic contemporary so this sounds appealing and unique in that I haven’t read about this topic before. I’ve seen it mentioned on goodreads but your review gives more insight to make me want to pick it up even more especially that it’s done well with the topic. The character names and title of the book are awesome too. Thanks for the chance to win :-)

    • Kim

      Hee I loved their names too! It makes me so happy to hear that my review made you even more eager to read this! The best words a reviewer can hear. :) I should really try and read more realistic/contemporary too. I have to come upon them at the exact right time and mood otherwise it won’t end well. This one really surprised me-I think it very much was just me reading “at the right time.” Does any of that make sense? I’m just a terrible, terrible mood reader. Sometimes I fall out of hte mood for reading a book while I’m reading it! Terrible and not the book’s fault. *sigh* anyway, good luck with the giveaway!
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: Tuck Everlasting

      • April

        Thanks! :-) You’re very welcome about the compliment & reviewers are awesome for giving us exposure and insight into books we wouldn’t otherwise have which I’m grateful for. Yes, what you said is spot on for me too regarding realistic fiction. I’m definitely a mood reader so I’ve experienced a few mood changing incidents in the middle of books before and it is a major bummer. I think it is better to return to the book when you can appreciate it more, though it is hard for me to drop a book after investing time even if temporarily.

  9. Carina Olsen

    Aw, amazing review Kim :D I am so so glad you managed to love this book so much, despite it not really being a “you” book :D I’m not sure yet if I want to read it, but maybe one day. <3 Thank you so much for sharing all your amazing thoughts about it :) You do make it sound pretty amazing. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #169

    • Kim

      Aww thanks, Carina. I’m really glad the book was here for me too. :p I can see that it’s certainly not going to be for everyone, though. That’s what makes reading so fun! you never know which books will totally surprise you with how much you end up connecting to it. I love how personal it is, you know?
      Kim recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  10. Mo

    This book has been on my list for a while. Reading through your review of it has made me at least 100 times more excited for it. I always love hearing when people enjoy a book that I want to read.

  11. Summer

    I love to feel something when I read, even if it’s a difficult feeling, and if your emotional review is any indication of what this book brings to a person, then it’s definitely my kind of book.

  12. Sabine B

    I am always interested in reading new books or finding good books online.

  13. Max Baker

    This is one of the most unique plots revolving around teen suicide I’ve ever read, which is why I’m no excited about this book.

  14. Natalie

    I’m glad you liked it, now I really can’t wait for it. I love the names of the characters, too, Aysel and Roman :D Thank you for the giveaway!

    • Kim

      I was a big fan of their names too! :) It’s funny how much a characters name can really influence me in my reading. I fully admit to staying away from some books when I see the love interest’s name. This is very silly but I just can’t sometimes. Haha anyyyyway. Good luck and I hope you like the book!
      Kim recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  15. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Wow. This one sounds like it really hit you hard — in the best possible way. I’ve heard a bit about it but yours is the first review I’ve read of it and it really spoke to me. I had those moments of darkness as a teen (as many teens do) and experienced them as an adult, too. I think I’ll have to check it out.
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Review: Burned by Karen Marie Moning

    • Kim

      Oh it did, Mary. And it’s been a long time since a story affected me so much. I think sometimes a story just catches you at the right time and this is definitely the case with this story. If my review spoke to you then I think the book itself will speak to you tenfold. I hope you love it!
      Kim recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  16. Lia

    Glad you enjoyed it! I guess I just really want to read a book that doesn’t make depression just the plot’s way of pulling in a cute boy. And the title just speaks for itself. Thanks for the giveaway!

  17. Hilary

    Oh man. Am I going to need a box of tissue for this? There are so many contemporaries dealing with suicide, they all started to merge into the same thing. Not to mention, they’re also very heavy reads but I’m looking forward to the part where hope crawls into my heart and reading about the characters.
    Hilary recently posted…Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

    • Kim

      Oh it’s hard for me to say since I’m not really a book crier. I don’t think this is necessarily a tearjerker but it is an intensely emotional read. For me the hopefulness of the story really balanced the otherwise heaviness of the material. I can’t speak for too many others (since really I don’t usually read books like this) but I know our Layla just reviewed another suicide book the other day and found it incredibly problematic. Linking below! She was of a mind, I think, that this book definitely handles suicide better than that one so there is at least one way I can tell you MY HEART stands out from similar books.
      Kim recently posted…All the Bright Places: Review

  18. Pili

    It really wouldn’t have been thought this would be a Pili book, but I think I must give this one a try and soon. It will break me, kill me and make me cry my eyes out, but I hope it’ll be as hopeful and as “light at the end of the tunnel” feel of it, because I feel like I still need reminders now and then myself!

    Brilliant review as always Kim!

    Also, Kim’s books are usually Pili’s book, so I’m totally taking on this one because of you and if it gives me all the feels, I’ll be scream/wait/tweet at you!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #78!!

    • Kim

      You should definitely give it a try! I promise to take full responsibility if you love it (but it wrecks you) or you hate it and wish you hadn’t wasted precious time! I agree to take this on. But I’m pretty confident you’ll find this a moving and hopeful portrayal, Pili!
      Kim recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  19. nica

    Since the moment I heard of this book, I have wanted to read it. I am so glad you said it didn’t glorify suicide (that was my only fear in reading “My Heart..”).

    Someone I loved struggled with depression, this book sounds like the story I play in my head of “what !if” when no one is around. I would love to see how these two characters grow and where they end up.

    This review was beautiful btw.

    • Kim

      Yes, please, rest assured. There’s no glorifying or romanticizing of the subject matter in this book. To be fair, though, the story takes place over the span of only about 30 days. And there aren’t necessarily “answers” or solutions. But there is hope and that’s the important takeaway.
      Kim recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

  20. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    I love when a book speaks to me in a way I didn’t expect it to, especially when it speaks to my teenage self in a personal way. I tend to avoid these heavy books and there are so many featuring suicide that are coming out right now, and I agree that how you see them has a lot to do with your own experiences. But the fact that this book portrays depression and suicide in a non romanticized way coupled with the hope you found along side it, is appealing. I just read This is Shyness, which isn’t about these subjects and is kind of a wacky book, but it features two kids who’s lives are/have imploded and though the time they spend together doesn’t solve any of their problems, it changes their perspective and offers them each a little bit of light. Often that is more important and lasting than fixing the problem for a person. It’s grasping onto idea that there is something more out there than this darkness you can’t escape. It seems maybe you got some of the same things out of this one, or that’s me personally connecting to your words in my own way. I went wayyyy off on a tangent there…
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…Dual Review: The Eighth Guardian and Blackout by Meredith McCardle

    • Kim

      Yeah, I didn’t realize how many suicide books were there lately until just recently but there are a good many. Hmm. Interesting trend. I usually avoid heavy books like the plague but when I saw the author’s bio with the lyric to one of my favorite songs I just got a special feeling about it. I think that this is a solid book that covers depression in a responsible way, but I think your connection with the story is going to be heavily factored by how the amount of experience with the subject matter. If that makes any sense.

      But you’ve totally sold me on THIS IS SHYNESS. It wasn’t really on my radar but definitely is now.

      “It’s grasping onto idea that there is something more out there than this darkness you can’t escape. ” Yes, that is definitely it! That’s exactly what I got out of this one. I loved your tangent and I’m excited about that book now! <3
      Kim recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway

    • Kim

      I mean, there are a lot of tender moments in this book for sure! But I just want to make sure you know it’s not all sweetness. Both characters are dealing with very tough emotional situations and there is an immense heaviness and weight to the story. But I still found it suffused with light and hope. I hope you like it!
      Kim recently posted…My Heart and Other Black Holes: Review + Giveaway