My Review: I bought the hardcover edition of My Heart & Other Black Holes off of Amazon during their Black Friday deals a couple months ago & finally got to read it this week for the book club that I’m in!
The cover art drew me in, & the synopsis made me pick it up. I have a thing for darker subject matter in literature. I like reading fictional books about mental illness. Partly because I’ve been struggling with my own issues for a while now. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone, even if it’s just in relation to a fictional character. Sometimes those fictional characters can give you a nice perspective that may be different than your own.
My Heart & Other Black Holes is a debut novel that follows Ayzel (pronounced uh-zell) Seran & her struggles with depression & thoughts of suicide after her father commits a crime that shakes her small hometown of Langston, Kentucky. She gets in contact with a boy named Roman on a website devoted to suicide, searching for someone to die with. So right off the bat, you can tell that their relationship with each other is going to be a focal point of the novel, even if the reason they’re together is for a pact.
Roman & Ayzel have different reasons for wanting to end it all, & I liked the way Warga was able to show a couple different sides of depression. It’s not a one-size-fits-all disorder, it affects everyone differently. Yea, there are basic symptoms that can be found in most everybody, but that does not mean it’s always the same. And Warga definitely gets that, as she was inspired by her own bout of depression in the past. A lot of the coping mechanisms & thoughts that Ayzel had throughout the book are things that even I, myself, have experienced.
One issue I had with the writing was that, through most of the book, what her father did is alluded to, but not actually said outright. I am not a fan of information not being fully given simply to make a story last longer or to save for a big dramatic reveal later on. That tactic has always rubbed me the wrong way, & here is no different, though I understand why she couldn’t quite think of what happened as a way to protect herself. I would probably avoid thinking about it myself, if I were in that situation.
There’s a lot more hope & positivity than you may initially expect in a novel about depression, but that doesn’t mean it’s a “happy” story, & that also doesn’t mean that it’s not as dark as you’d expect either. It’s kind of a nice balance on both sides. If you read the summary on the cover of this book, you basically have the whole story & can probably guess at what happens. It’s a little predictable, but still a nice read. Especially considering it’s Jasmine Warga’s first novel.
Not every part ends on a good, all-is-now-ok, kind of note, & I feel that’s very true to life when it comes to depression. You can get better, but you’ll always be living with it, it’ll never fully go away. Or you can end up suffocating in it for years. There is no cure for depression. Not yet, anyway, & this novel definitely gets that right, in a way.
In the end, I give this one a 3.5/5. It’s a good book, & I’m glad that I read it. It got a lot of things right, but there were still some things that turned me off. It’s great for a first novel, & I will definitely be picking up her work as it gets published. If you dislike dark subjects or swearing (the first few chapters are littered with quite a few specific words, but not so much the further you get), maybe skip this one. If neither of these things bother you, it’s definitely worth a read. It may even resonate with your soul, like part of it did with mine.