My Heart and Other Black Holes
(2015), a young adult contemporary novel by Jasmine Warga, tells the story of two depressed teenagers who forge a suicide pact online, but then question whether they want to go through with it. Although the book may be triggering for some readers, it received widespread critical acclaim for its sharp honesty and hopeful message. Warga’s first novel, she has since published another contemporary novel. My Heart and Other Black Holes
has been optioned for a feature film and was nominated for the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for a Debut Author.
The protagonist is sixteen-year-old Aysel. Right now, her life feels like a void or a black hole. Her father killed a local teenager, and Aysel is worried that she has inherited his monstrous side. She is terrified that she will turn out no better than him. In a small town, no one looks at Aysel the same. She has no friends because no one wants to associate with the daughter of a child murderer—at least, that is what Aysel thinks. The truth is that she pushes her friends away because she doesn’t feel worthy of them anymore. They give up trying to talk to her, and she feels alone. To make matters worse, her mother barely speaks to her, and she can’t talk to her siblings anymore.
Aysel believes she has only one option left—ending her life. She is severely depressed and she knows it, but she doesn’t see any way out of her situation. For example, when she is at school and reading depressing poetry, she gets angry because she doesn’t believe that it’s sincere. It is impossible to be poetic or artistic about depression—there is nothing beautiful about it.
Day by day, she only feels worse. Working as a cold-caller for a local business, hardly distracts her from her feelings. She tries to lose herself in her schoolwork—especially physics, which she used to love—but it’s no use. She needs help, but she has given up looking for it. Finally, Aysel decides to go through with her suicide. The problem is, she doesn’t know how to do it, and she’s worried that it won’t work.
Aysel signs up on a website called Suicide Partners. Here, she can find someone to “befriend” with whom she can form a suicide pact. She browses the forum until she stumbles across FrozenRobot, whose name is Roman. Roman also wants to kill himself, but his reasons are different—he blames himself for his sister’s death. He plans to kill himself on the anniversary of her death, and he wonders if Aysel would like to join him.
Aysel is unsure about agreeing to this without meeting Roman first. He agrees to meet up in person. They get on well, and they meet up a few more times. As they talk about their feelings and their suicidal thoughts, Aysel realizes that there might be more to life than just death. Roman, however, is not so sure, and he remains determined to kill himself.
Each day, as the suicide date creeps closer, Aysel and Roman grow closer—close enough that she decides she doesn’t want to kill herself, after all. She wants to give life a shot first. She has decided that it is up to her who she is and how she wants to live her life, and that she shouldn’t let depression beat her. She also realizes that she is not a monster; she can never be like her father. This gives her the strength to carry on.
Aysel must find a way to save Roman before it is too late. He tells her that he is not allowed to go away on his own for long enough to kill himself. He wants her to convince his parents that he is stable now and that he doesn’t blame himself for his sister’s death. Aysel isn’t sure, but she knows she needs his trust to talk him out of killing himself.
Aysel thinks she has made progress with Roman because he agrees that she deserves to live. He doesn’t want her to kill herself. She believes this means that Roman is reconsidering his own death and perhaps doesn’t want to admit it. However, Roman still plans to kill himself on his own.
By this point, Aysel and Roman are in a romantic relationship, although they are not sure if it is going anywhere. Roman is still too depressed to care at this point, anyway. All the while, Aysel suspects that Roman is getting better. The day before the planned suicide date, however, Roman tries to kill himself at home in the car. Aysel and his mother find him and immediately rush him to hospital. He survives the suicide attempt and knows he needs to find a way to keep living. With the support of Aysel and his family, he decides it might be worth giving life a shot after all.