This month we’re once again hosting the book club chat, and we hope that you’ll be prompted to put the book on your immediate TBR list; we promise you won’t regret it — just remember to keep some Kleenex close by for the all the emotional parts.
Many thanks to Harper Teen for sending us all review copies of the book!
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: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) 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. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.
We Heart YA: Yes! It’s not the kind of unreliable narration that we typically think of, but it’s really well done.
Teen Lit Rocks: If she couldn’t compartmentalize what her father did, how could he not obsess over what happened on his watch?But it was beautiful to see how by seeing what was worth living for in his life, she could start to see some things in her own that were worth sticking around to experience.
Reading Date: I can’t even imagine. I believe he was in therapy and taking medication, correct?
Reading Date: With Aysel, she hid her depression from her family so I know she wasn’t receiving any kind of help vs. Roman’s very clued-in family.
We Heart YA: Oh yeah, interesting contrast! I didn’t think too much about that, but now that you’ve pointed it out, I appreciate getting to see both. I just remember really feeling for both mothers.
Teen Lit Rocks: Aysel’s blended family issues hit home with me, because I grew up with a stepfather and two step-siblings; blended families can be really tough to navigate even without a dad in prison.
Reading Date: Her blended family seemed to further isolate her and make her feel like she wouldn’t be missed.
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes, because she was the only carryover from her mom’s first marriage. So it was easy for her to think of her life as that old “Which one of these things doesn’t belong?”
Reading Date: Yes, sadly. I guess we should also touch on the diversity in the book- Aysel’s Turkish heritage.
Gone Pecan: I don’t feel like they showed enough of her family heritage to make me feel like I truly learned something about her culture. There was a bit about the food and a few family friends but being as she was biased herself against her father it almost felt like she didn’t want to share her heritage with the reader even in thought.
Teen Lit Rocks: I loved how she explained how to pronounce her name and how she kept having to deal with well meaning folks who assumed she was Latina.
We Heart YA: Hah! I love that we’re just now coming to the diverse element. I mean that! It’s a diverse book that isn’t ABOUT the diversity.
Reading Date: I will always remember “rhymes with gazelle.”
We Heart YA: Me too, Lucy!Two embarrassing confessions, btw: 1. When I first met Jasmine Warga (the author) I thought she was Latina. 2. When we first talked about her book, I pronounced Aysel’s name wrong.
Reading Date: I struggled with the pronunciation in my head until she added the rhyme. It’s a tricky one. And yes I really liked that the main character just happened to be Turkish and her culture doesn’t really drive the story.
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes, but it’s “there” even when it’s not being discussed, because of her name and the way she sees herself versus her “white” half siblings
We Heart YA: *nods*It’s inherent and integrated into her character. It’s not “throwaway” but it’s not the focal point either.I would love that kind of portrayal to be a common part of the diversity toolbox, so to speak.
Reading Date: Yes definitely.
Teen Lit Rocks: Right, which is really the way it is when you’re a minority. You don’t think about your “otherness” all the time, but it’s there in small ways nonetheless.
Teen Lit Rocks: You asked about the chapter headings — they definitely added to the tension I felt about the possibilities.
We Heart YA: Yeah, a “ticking clock” always adds tension, and I definitely felt that building as we neared their suicide date.
Reading Date: I had just come off of reading another book with this subject matter, and was so on edge about the outcome of this one!
Gone Pecan: I felt like I should have been more on edge as we got closer but I just felt sad. I related to Aysel’s feelings so much that I just wanted her to wake up!
We Heart YA: Haha yeah I don’t know how you could read so many in a row!
Reading Date: I do really love that we are talking about mental illness more. I thought that this book was really well done. Anything else you’d like to talk about about this one?
We Heart YA: I liked how the small details lent authenticity. The marketing job, the school scenes (which felt more realistic to me than most YA novels), the way Roman liked jalapeños, and of course, the way Aysel kept linking her life back to physics principles and music.The small details bring things to life, you know?
Teen Lit Rocks: Absolutely. Like the things he remembered about his little sister, or how she missed tiny little routines with her dad. This was among my favorites of our selections.
Reading Date: Yes, I feel like a lot of books get high school wrong, but this one did feel more authentic. Looking forward to more from this author.
Interested in the book? Make sure to read our Author Q&A with Jasmine Warga at Gone Pecan, The Reading Date’s feature “I Will Follow You into the Dark: Mental Illness in YA,” and We Heart YA’s post about the Book’s Amazing Launch Party. Stay tuned in March when we read and discuss Elizabeth Wein’s book BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN. Read more about it | Pre-order it.
This post fulfills our monthly participation in Reading Wishes & Rather Be Reading’s Dive Into Diversity Challenge.