The August Book of the month for the Beyond The Surface Book Club was My Heart and Other Black Holes. I truly enjoyed reading this book and I have so many things I wish to say about it.
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—Roman, a teenage boy 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.
The Book in General (Spoiler Free):
My Heart and Other Black Holes was a novel that I enjoyed reading with all my heart. There were many ups and downs and it was hard for me to read through it during many points, but as it is I loved the writing, I cared for all of the characters, and all I wanted was good things for all of them. Everyone felt real to me. No one felt flat or without purpose. There was something colorful to remember about everyone. I think that reading a novel like this one is important. I think it is good to remember that there is always something that is happening beneath the surface. This book was definitely that for me, a look into how a situation could affect someone and the journey coming back from that black hole.
(Various Degrees of Spoiler Ahead.. Read with caution)
How it Affected Me Personally:
I say above that this book was hard for me to read and it’s hard to understand until I start to explain that the only real time I wanted to cry while reading this book was because of how much I could relate to Aysel. Her fear of being capable of the things her father was. Her fear of being of the same insane mind as him. The continuous blame she placed on herself and all that self-pity. Aysel is like me because she bottles everything up and she doesn’t tell anyone what’s wrong. The mask she put on, but most of all that wall. It’s hard to go through life always pushing away those who desire to get close. I have done that for years. I try not to, but I can’t help it. Seeing that sort of solidarity with this nerdy fictional character that I wanted to protect was like looking in a mirror and seeing that all I’ve ever wanted was to protect myself and I’ve been doing it wrong all along. Closing yourself off is good for no one. I like to think that I’ve been more open over the years, but that is not exactly true. I’ve gotten better, but not by as much I would like. This book was a reminder of all of this and that nothing will change until I’m willing to want to give more happiness for myself instead of wallowing in my own sorrows. Little bits of happiness at a time are the things to be cherished not the few horrible times that have wounded me.
Aysel is sad, but she is also nerdy and intelligent and even humorous. She is a lover of classical music and is full of wit and more strength then she realizes. There may be some things about her story I want to change, but she is a person that wants good for everyone and her hurt makes me sad and I just want to be there for her.
Our beau Roman is also sad, but for a while I couldn’t see him that way. I saw him as Aysel saw him, athletic, shining, caring, and full of amazing artistic ability. He may not be nerdy, but with his love for his turtle, there is nothing I wouldn’t want more then to protect him as the precious bean he is.
Aysel’s family at times made me happy and at times made me sad, but my favorite of them all was Aysel’s sister Georgia. She is outgoing and maybe a little mean at the beginning, but she had a fierce heart and she cares for her sister a great deal more then her sister is willing to accept. I don’t know if it is a change in Aysel’s perception later that allows me to see just how much Georgia cares for her or not, but I am so glad for her being there.
Aysel’s father, while he may not have a true physical presence in this book is probably one of the most pivotal characters in this novel. His decisions and the kind of father he was to Aysel affected her deeply. No matter his crime she loves him and in many ways Aysel’s fear of that feeling is as much part of her hurt as it is part of what makes her happy and comforted (which means so many things get complicated).
I had to give a little section for my gratefulness to just how nerdy this book was. I loved that physics was what made Aysel feel calm. I love that in so many ways it was a part of how she started to heal. Her thoughts about potential energy and what happens to your energy when you die fascinated me. Something about the nerdyness being so important to Aysel as a character just made me feel warm inside.
The Role of Music:
Music has such an important role in all our lives, yet I don’t think that books utilize song as much as it should be used. In this book, I’m happy that music is a much a comfort to Aysel as it is to me in in my own life. Aysel hums classical music when she is uncomfortable or in the most relaxed of states no matter if she is happy or sad she hums, because music is a blanket to aid all emotion and it is seamlessly woven into her life. It made me happy that it was her father who introduced her to music. That she always did everything she could to find hidden answers in Mozart because her father told her they were there. Aysel’s father may be a criminal, but before he gave her something that is a part of what Aysel happy and I’m all the more glad for it.
Feelings about Their Reasons for Wanting to Die:
Aysel wants to die out of fear of being like her father, but also because she feels she is a nuisance. People look at her with fear, distrust, sometimes even disgust out of disgust for her father or they simply don’t look at her at all. There are more things layering her wanting to die then I think is truly laid out in the book and nothing for her is as straightforward as might believe.
Roman’s reason for dying is because he is the reason his sister died. Left alone to baby sit his sister he brings over his girlfriend at the time and has special relations with her while he let his sister take a bath. His sister (known to have seizures) has a seizure and dies in the tub while he and his girlfriend were just in another room. His reason is definitely straight forward and I can’t say how I would feel in his situation. It’s so tragic that it is hard for me to know how to even approach that sort of situation if it were in real life.
What Scene I Wish it Had:
While near the end Aysel and her mother have a heartfelt conversation about her sadness and why she feels the way she does I really wanted Aysel and Georgia to have that conversation first. I think that for me it would have been such a powerful scene if the two sisters had a heart to heart and Georgia helped Aysel gather courage to talk to their mom. It would have strengthened their bond as sister and it would have made me feel a lot better about Aysel’s quest to heal for the future.
How the Mental Illness was Portrayed:
For my own experience with my own dips into depression I found this book portrayed what it feels like to be so sad very well. However, I have been told that this book could be hurtful in the way that Aysel came out of her depression because of her romance with Roman. However, I think that while there are pieces of that kind of language in the book I wish were changed, A lot of Aysel’s healing was due to herself and her willingness to start accepting little happinesses and speaking with her family (although talking with Roman was probably a big help). I think this is a Matters hat they didn’t just save each other, but more that a mixture of experience, people, and finding some sort of acceptance and hope helped Aysel find a greater will to live.
(SUPER SPOILERS AHEAD… Proceed with Caution… you have been warned)
If you are reading this and haven’t read the book and you even remotely want to read this one in the future please don’t read this last bit of discussion. Knowing the end is not the way to start a book and I fear to post what happens in it here, but what happens begs to be discussed.
You have twice been warned.
In the end of My Heart and Other Black Holes there is the biggest moment of panic and sadness of the entire book. Roman’s solo suicide attempt. For so many reasons this part hurt to read. For the sake of his mother I almost couldn’t handle it. I don’t know if his relationship with Aysel will help him see the good in him later and in my mind I really don’t think it will. I think there are a lot of things that need to happen for the pair to truly heal. Both of them starting to see a therapist being one of the biggest steps of all. I don’t even truly believe that they are both yet saved, but every step forward will be for hope and I’m hoping that their future (together or apart) is very bright.
Thank you for reading! Let me know your thoughts about My Heart and Other Black Holes down in the comments below!
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I can’t wait to share Septembers book of the Month pick with you all tomorrow!
-Till next time!