Book Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes

My Heart and Other Black Holes, written by Jasmine Warga revolves around Aysel, a sixteen years old who is struggling with depression. Due to her depressive state and her constant feeling of hopelessness, Aysel decides to kill herself  to stop the pain and darkness from devouring her.

What started as a raw discussion on depression and suicide ended in a sappy formulaic young adult novel that lost its punch. The first act of the book was tragic yet beautiful. My Heart and Other Black Holes definitely has its moments where it gets depression right. It gave a realistic image to one of the most discussed mental illnesses: Depression.  But after the first act and the build up, everything went downhill from there.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this book is how it gave spotlight to depression, a serious mental illness that plagues a lot of people today. The description of having this black slug inside you is right on and it definitely helped gave an image of depression that is accurate but at the same time is not afraid to be blunt about it. For someone who is struggling with this illness, I was touched by how accurate and heart-hitting the words about the struggles of living with depression. My favorite passage about this is:

Depression is like a heaviness that you can’t ever escape. It cruses down on you, making even the smallest things like tying your shoes or chewing on toast seem like a twenty-mile hike uphill. Depression is a part of you; it’s in your bones and your blood. If I know anything about it, this is what I know: It’s impossible to escape.

And I do agree with what the author was trying to say. I applaud Jasmine Warga for a beautiful yet painful representation of this mental illness. However, like I said, everything went downhill after the build up of the story. The second part of the book lost its punch, its magic, and it just became another typical Y.A. novel. What did I even expect? Of course the unpopular girl falls for the hot, charming boy. Of course there is romance. This book was a fun, realistic, and tragic read up until the second half.

Although it did get the feeling of having depression right during the first half, when the romance storyline started, the images of depression and sadness were overt the top and it was already romanticizing it. Just like in the line, “You’re sad like me, and as screwed up as that is, it’s pretty beautiful.” Here’s the thing, sadness, depression, feeling the hollowness of your own being, is not beautiful. Nothing about this is beautiful. This kind of thinking is hurtful and dangerous, to say the least.

I do not think it is safe to attach your life to someone else’s existence. And this is why I did not like the second half of the book. Aysel fell in love with a boy and suddenly all the black slug, the struggle of living is gone. Suddenly she lives in a technicolor world where she can do anything. This resolution is dangerous and weak. Finding someone you are compatible with does not erase the hopelessness and the slug in your gut. Never depend on someone to live your life.

The resolution is also weak in this book. There are loose ends such as the sub-plot of Aysel and her relationship with her father. This never came up in the end and they did not really discuss what happened next. There is also the subtle sub-plot regarding Aysel and her relationship with her sister. At some part of the book, it said that her sister is just trying to be friends with her and is actually trying to be close to her. They never addressed that again. If you are going to drop some information, make sure that you follow that up because that information will be futile and unnecessary in the narrative.

Even though I did not like this book, it still had its shining moments. First, again, the depiction of depression. And second, its writing. The writing is great most of the times. There are passages that just slap you in the face and squeeze your heart but sometimes, the novel knows that it is being clever and pats itself at the back. It also feels like the line is just there to be quotable. I can see these quotes on mugs, sweaters, and posters and some of them are just too much and it comes off as unnatural.

My Heart and Other Black Holes tried to be philosophical and deep but it just ended as a typical Y.A. novel that shows you that there is color in this life if someone catches your heart and life.


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