Like how slugs and black holes are saturated in black, this is a darkly compelling story that will portray the gloom and torment of depression.Everybody talks about being happy. Because that’s the ultimate goal, right? That’s the main point and the peak of all our endeavors. You have to have that glimmering hope and that sunny outlook that will exterminate all the sorrow and grief inside you. No matter what you went through, no matter what faith you should hold on to, you just have to keep yourself happy.
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But, nobody actually talks about the depravity of being sad, even more so about being depressed. Sure, they discuss about its detrimental effects, how to try best to overcome it, or what you should do with it. But the actual depression that sinks in your stomach, walks with you everywhere and greets you every time you open your eyes, that lingering happenstance is often ignored.
In this story, the bittersweet narrative of a girl living with a black slug that devours her being, brought upon misery and dark disasters, will be gracefully and earnestly told.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Ahead!)The story takes place in the town of Langston in Kentucky, USA. Aysel (pronounced uh-zel) is a sixteen-year-old first-generation Turkish-American who is a quiet physics nerd. Along with her meek loneliness, she was talked behind her back, her mother can barely look or communicate with her without wincing, and she was always seen as trouble because of her father’s heinous crime, which caused her misery. With the black slug that drowns her in desolation, Aysel plots her own death, to submit her potential energy into the world, by looking at a suicide website called Smooth Passages.Characters
However, Aysel cannot wholeheartedly succumb into suicide alone. Then, she finds a Suicide Partner from the website with username FrozenRobot, who was also haunted by melancholy due to a family tragedy, and meets with him until they establish an unthinkable commitment: on the 7th of April, they’d jump off the cliff together and give in with the black slug until they arrive deep in the pit of the black hole.
They promised each other that they wouldn’t be flakes and fulfill the commitment. As the story progresses, FrozenRobot, whose real name is Roman, becomes friends with Aysel. They continue to know each other and understand why their lust for life no longer sparked because of their dreadful pasts. It was eventually revealed that the reason why Roman chose April 7 is because it was her younger sister’s death anniversary and he blamed himself as the reason why she died. He thought it'd fair for her if he’d die on the same day.
But, as they continuously become acquainted with each other, they establish a deeper connection that ends up with them gradually meeting each of their families and obtaining their trusts, seeing that since they met, Aysel slowly forgets about the black slug and Roman often leaves the house. Without actually noticing it, they start to fill in each other’s broken lives.
With their commitment date approaching, Aysel realizes that she is a flake and now questions the thought of ending her life. Her perspective switches and Roman is a reason why it did. Then, she tries to meet with her father, who was jailed because of the crime of killing Timothy Jackson, a supposed Olympic athlete in Langston. She becomes utterly conflicted of whether fulfilling the pact or attempt to convince Roman to live so they can discover their potential energy together.
Aysel looks at Roman with the hope of saving him, the way he did as Roman unknowingly prevented the black slug from consuming her entire being as they fall in love for each other. Despite that glimmering hope, she still wouldn’t let him die alone if in case she couldn’t stop him.
Roman knew that he fell with Aysel too, so he secretly attempted to kill himself before the date of the suicide pact. He believed that she was too resilient for her to just forfeit end her life. Fortunately, Aysel and his mom arrived before things gotten even more out of hand.
The story ends with Roman lying on a hospital bed and Aysel convincing Roman that maybe, even after everything that happened, there is a future that holds promising visions where their potential energy could be converted into auspicious and beautiful kinetics.
- Aysel Seran. Pronounced uh-zell, she is the 16-year-old, physics nerd protagonist who struggled with depression for a very long time and wished to just disappear into the black hole of afterlife. She worked at Tucker’s Marketing Concepts, which is a telemarketing firm located in the basement of a dingy strip mall, where she also had the time and leisure to access the website Smooth Passages.
- Roman Franklin. Registed with username FrozenRobot Smooth Passages, he is the handsome, goofy lanky, chestnut-colored haired boy with deep-set hazel eyes who became Aysel’s Suicide Partner. He negotiated with Aysel that they’d jump off of a cliff on April 7 and firmly reminded Aysel to not be a flake. He also reprimanded that Aysel should not die alone – she should only die with him.
Despite his good looks, he was internally crestfallen and depressed ever since his sister died. All of his interests diminished and he socially gloomed since the incident. He used Aysel as an escape route from her ever-supervising mom until he became utterly affectionate and fell in love with Aysel, but he was still set on dying and strived on not being a flake.
- Georgia and Mike. They are Aysel’s half-siblings. Georgia is the designated gorgeous and popular cheerleader who is friends with everyone and very likable. Meanwhile, Mike is their sweet, kiddish youngest sibling who lovingly adored Aysel.
- Melda Underwood. She is Aysel’s mom who remarried to Steve Underwood and seemed distant to Aysel when she started to live with her family. Although she was previously emotionally detached from Aysel, she eventually opens up to her and recognizes her maternal connection when Aysel shared about her feelings. Although she had Turkish roots, she eradicated the traces of her hometown and became an American gal since she separated from Omer.
- Madison Franklin. She was Roman’s younger sister who died on April 7 because of drowning in a bathtub while having a seizure.
- Mr. and Mrs Franklin. They are Roman’s loving and faithful parents who believed that Aysel was the hope that could save Roman from his misery and loneliness.
- Omer Seran. He is Aysel’s Turkish father who was convicted for the murder of Timothy Jackson. He ran a convenience store and had lingering anger management issues due to frustrations in his life, which caused him to commit his crime when Timothy and his friends started goofing around in his store.
- Timothy Jackson. He is the first boy from Langston, Kentucky who almost qualified for the Olympics but was unfortunately killed by Aysel’s father when they goofed in Omer’s store and knocked over store displays.
- Mr. Palmer. He is Aysel’s boss in a phone bank at Tucker’s Marketing Concepts.
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Black Slugs, Black Holes and Brittle Flakes: A Narrative Portrayal of Depression by Jasmine Warga
My Heart and Other Black Holes is an intensely alive, earnestly honest, and darkly wholehearted story that is segmented with tiny stories and life-affirming lessons about the depravity of depression and the transformative power of anyone’s love. It'll take you to an enthralling ride page by page to know more about Aysel’s potential energy and how she decides to convert it into kinetic energy.
Jasmine Warga encompasses various adventures that not just make this novel an easily insightful and captivating read, but also an intelligently fascinating one. She also uses interesting selection of words that can be decoded into much deeper acumens of wisdom.
- Flakes. Flakes can be dandruffs, croissant crusts, snow, or rocks. But, in this novel, the urban slang of flake was adorably utilized in describing how neither Aysel nor Roman should break their April 7 suicide pact. It is always emphasized throughout the text that they shouldn’t be flakes, even when it comes to their dark commitments.
- Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Newton’s Laws of Motion. Physics is fundamental in understanding the universe and all properties of matter and energy. But, it is not only intended for academics as its lessons and theories can be also be figuratively applied to a person’s life. Just like how Aysel is a physics nerd, Jasmine Warga’s literary description of physics creates a bright, intelligent image of how it works daily – how the time moves depends on an observer’s perception and how everything is subjective to the human mind.
Another witty application of a discipline it gravity, as it explains in Aysel’s mind that maybe, it is the problem because it keeps humans grounded which simultaneously gives the false sense of stability when in actuality, we’re all just bodies in motion. If it weren’t for gravity, we would all float up into space and involuntarily create a chaos as we crash into one another.
Likewise, potential energy is also often mentioned in this book. It is depicted as energy stored in any object, the way Newton illustrated it in the conservation of energy. Aysel often references her will and time as potential energy, which she initially thought will be converted into kinetic energy and then into nothingness. Aysel’s skillful fascination for physics brightened her dark and gloomy personality, which was then noticed by other characters in the story.
- Slugs. This term, particularly black slug, is a gastropod mollusc that is described as the parasite that lives within Aysel, or anyone that has a dimmer spark than what is required to be actually alive and living. This black slug signifies depression, which is one of the most significant imageries in the novel because it devours her emotions and joie de vivre. Aysel isoften conflicted about whether to let it escape from her, or urge it to completely let it consume with her happiness – let what’s left of her life to be as black as the slug. The black slug also lived in Roman, because despite having his mesmerizing eyes, Aysel saw that they were empty and he really wanted to die. But, Aysel relied on the black slug to eat any sympathetic and comforting thing, everything that may spark interest or life in her and may prevent her from fulfilling their commitment.
- Black hole. Conferring from the title, Warga described Aysel’s heart as a black hole – where its s dense that there’s no room for light and nothing, not even light or waves, can escape from it. In the first chapter of the story, Aysel sees her future and her potential self as a destructive, inescapable black hole, which triggers her to run away from it. She admits that running away from her black hole of a heart is cowardly, but she is afraid that it’ll eventually suck her.
But, her black hole also meant perspective and light – taking her courage to see what probable beauty the future may hold for her, with the help of Roman.
Besides these things, My Heart and Other Black Holes narrates an genuinely hopeful story about the darkness that depression may bring. Like what Warga has written, it conveys that the voice in your head can make you feel the most isolated and terrified. The black hole in your mind can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven – it is that powerful.
Nevertheless, the story has a captivating plot which was crafted in a way that while the reader goes through the text, the reader will not be able to stop due to the effect of wanting to know how it will progress and conclude. Warga presented the actual effect of depression, not just how it happens or how it how it affects a person but how it actually lives inside the body, the mind, and the heart.
Referring from her words, it was honestly and wholeheartedly portrayed that there is nothing beautiful or literary or mysterious about depression because it is just impossible to escape. Depression is not just a slug that temporarily lodges inside you – it lives within you until it consumes you completely. Depression eats you alive until you can’t even recognize that it is in there because, it became you
But still, there will always be hope. Although it may seem quite unnecessary to add a romantic twist in the story, it is still admirable to see how love may spark or transform the dark function of a black hole into a hopeful one.
With an earnest tug at your heartstrings that’ll make you think that yes, maybe, there’s really a spark or hope that may burn bright – enough to light the darkness from where the black slug lives.
My Heart and Other Black Holes may not be as perfect in every standard of literature, but it definitely is a beautiful, sensitive, and compelling craft of telling how depression torments and lurks dreadfully inside the body before it even happens. Warga notes the mental and emotional urgency that comes with depression, and encourages her readers to seek help. She understands its weight and its pain, and she artfully reminds everyone that it’s okay to be sad. Because, how else will you recognize and appreciate the good moments if you don’t comprehend and apply the bad ones.
Convert your potentials energy into kinetics and let it take you on its captivating yet subtly suspenseful ride. It surely will not disappoint the black hole of your bookworm heart nor dissatisfy your black slug of literary fascinations.