"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

-C.S. Lewis

What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Heart and Other Black Holes, by Jasmine Warga

Before I write my review of this book, I want to send a message to anyone who is contemplating suicide, is depressed, or feels as though there is something "not right" with life.  No matter how badly you feel, no matter how much guilt or sadness or frustration you are carrying, there is help for you.  If a medical professional has told you you're fine, or given you a prescription isn't helping, there is still help for you.  Keep seeking it.  And there is so much more information on this website.  http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Do not give up on yourself, because no matter what you think right now, you are worth more than what you are going through.  And so many advances have been made even in the last twenty years that there is help for you no matter how impossible your world may seem.  There are people who are trained specially just to help you - yes, you - live a life that is meaningful and enjoyable.  It takes time, it won't happen overnight, but the new person they will help you become will be stronger and more filled with self-worth.


This book, as you may have guessed or were probably already aware, is about teen suicide.  To be more precise, it's about two teens who decide to make a suicide pact.  

The author writes that this book helped her deal with the loss of a dear friend, and I am glad she was able to use her writing in such a cathartic way.  I'm also glad that this book was accepted for publication, not only because the author is a gifted writer, but also because the subjects of depression and suicide hold so much stigma.  We need more discussion of both issues in a way that treats them seriously.  And this book does that.

I'm conflicted about the book, however.  There are adequate descriptions of what depression feels like, and I'm sure this is helpful to many readers who are experiencing depression.  But the author never really captures the bleakness of someone who is that close to suicide.  The words are there, but the emotion (or lack thereof) really isn't.

Aysel's decision to stay alive (and this isn't a spoiler, it's in the book synopsis) comes at a very alarming rate.  It troubles me that she decides life is finally worth living because of some boy.  What does that say to suicidal readers?  What if that boy never comes along?  What if that boy comes along but then breaks up with you?  There is very little sense that Aysel has decided that she herself is worth the effort to live.  There is just suicidal Aysel and non-suicidal Aysel who is all ready to live her life (with maybe a few therapy sessions) as though nothing has happened.  And darn it, she doesn't want to live life without Roman.  What a troubling message for someone who is feeling suicidal because someone just broke up with them!

The bounce back from serious suicidal ideation just happens too quickly.  What does that say to a depressed reader?  It takes a long time to recover from depression that serious, and I would hate for someone to think that their situation is hopeless just because it's taking them longer to recover than it does for the characters in this book.  

(Spoiler Alert in this paragraph) As far as Roman's story goes, we get a small sense of what he is going through, but again, there is more bounce back from his depression than one would expect after his suicide attempt.  He seems much more lucid and in control of his thoughts than someone in his position would tend to be.  The author does make a note at the end that true recovery does take a long time (and it does), but how many people read author's notes?  That note would have been better placed at the front, where more people might see it.

Now, I'm not sure how much of this is the author, and how much of it is a publisher who doesn't want to have that much sadness in one book.  (Because, yes, bookselling is a business, and you do have to take the target audience into account).  But it's a narrow path you travel when you put something like this out there.  I truly hope that readers who have depression or suicidal thoughts seek the help that is offered in the back of the book.  No one's life story is the same.  And the characters in this book are just that - fictional characters.  Happy endings like the one in this book take time, and I would hope that no reader would expect recovery to happen so quickly.

Two out of Five Stars