In the YA Diversity Book Club, we chat about the latest YA books that celebrate diversity. Our book club includes Sandie @ Teen Lit Rocks, Kristan @ We Heart YA and Kristina @ Gone Pecan. Each month we’ll focus on one book with a book review (our discussion chat) and bonus features.
Our February book club pick is My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. This debut is about two strangers who find each other through a website called Suicide Partners. Their suicide pact brings them closer, but is it enough to get them to change their minds? This book features a Turkish-American protagonist named Aysel (rhymes with Gazelle) and her culture is just one of the many interesting things about this poignant book. Many thanks to Harper Collins/Balzer & Bray for providing us with review copies of this book!
About the book:
My Heart and other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga, Hardcover, 320 pages, Balzer & Bray, January 22, 2015.
A stunning novel about the transformative power of love, perfect for fans of Jay Asher and Laurie Halse Anderson.
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.
I Will Follow You into the Dark: Mental Illness in YA
My Heart and Other Black Holes is one of the many 2015 books about depression and suicide. Why so many books, why now? Let’s take a look at the facts.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder in a given year. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. (more common than homicide) and the second leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.
Books that deal with suicide and depression are hard reads for me, but I’m drawn to them because a loved one of mine is battling depression. So, I keep turning to these books and highlighting them for my own support and to spread the word for others. My favorite books are the ones where there is a hopeful tone, personally, such as in My Heart and Other Black Holes. I like seeing this YA book trend- anything that helps reduce the stigma of mental illness is a good thing in my book.
Not all books about mental illness and depression are created equal though, and here are some of my favorites:
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand * This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales * Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick * Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos * Hold Still by Nina LaCour
For further reading visit YA Highway’s Mental Health in YA reading list, The Rise of Suicide Fiction in YA Fiction and Exploring Personal Biases in Reading on Stacked, Depression in YA and the Latin@ Community on Latin@s in Kid Lit, and Bustle’s 8 of the Most Realistic Portrayals of Mental Illness in Contemporary YA.
Be sure to check out all of the Book Club features:
- Kristina from Gone Pecan features an “Author Q&A with Jasmine Warga“
- Sandie from Teen Lit Rocks shares our “Book Club Discussion“
- Kristan from We Heart YA recaps the book launch party with “Laughter, Wisdom, and Other Wonderful Things: The Launch Party of MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES“
Don’t miss March’s featured book: Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein.