Published by University Queensland Press on June 13th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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It’s 1997 and seventeen-year-old Sam is mourning the sudden loss of his mum …
Sam has always had things going on in his head that no one else understands, even his mum. And now she’s dead, it’s worse than ever.
With nothing but his skateboard and a few belongings in a garbage bag, Sam goes to live with the strangers his mum cut ties with seven years ago: Aunty Lorraine and his cousins Shane and Minty.
Despite the suspicion and hostility emanating from their fibro shack, Sam reverts to his childhood habit of following Minty around and is soon surfing with Minty to cut through the static fuzz in his head. But as the days slowly meld into one another, and ghosts from the past reappear, Sam has to make the ultimate decision … will he sink or will he swim.
I’m so disappointed that I didn’t enjoy One Would Think The Deep. I have given 5 stars to Claire Zorn’s other novels, but this one just felt so different to her other novels.
Set in a small surfing town, the characters talk like “ridin’ waves brah” or “epic ay!”. It was difficult to get into because of the language and subject matter, as it really delves deep into hitting the waves and the music culture of the 90s.
I didn’t realise until halfway through (funnily enough, when they mentioned playing Goldeneye on the N64 which gives me childhood nostalgia) that it was set in the 90s – mostly due to my own ignorance of not reading the blurb. When talk of Spice Girls and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers arose, you can tell the author is really trying to capture a heyday gone past.
Minty? Minty reckons it’s irrelevant. Says it doesn’t matter who your parents are, what they’ve done, it’s got nothin’ to do with you and you make yourself up, like. He bloody wishes.
As The Protected dealt so realistically with the sense of grief after losing a loved one, One Would Think the Deep brushed upon Sam struggling to fit into this new town after losing his mother. While he had to find his place in the novel, sadly I found the surfing talk and the music culture really distracting and I struggled to connect to him as a character. I didn’t really feel much for him per se, which is unfortunate for a book that I picked up due it’s moving subject matter.
The book focuses on the relationships that Sam has with his cousin Minty, his extended family and a brief romance with Gretchen. It was great to see the brotherly relationship that the boys developed, and how there were some deep topics touched upon (in amongst all of the surfing lingo) like being true to yourself. I’m not sure why he pursued the relationship with Gretchen though, being in incredible self doubt at the start and also not being sure that he could end up with a girl like her. He definitely wasn’t being fair to her, and I thought it was important for him to be honest about his feelings and coping with grief. He does come around, in the end though.
The whole time it was like he’d been the one who had done something wrong. Something terrible. Something that had hurt her and them. But it was nothing compared to the lie she’d told him his entire life.
While Sam clearly deals with some darker feelings, he doesn’t show it outwardly. He’s quite reserved and reluctant to build new relationships, and there’s a lot to forgive his family for. Unfortunately, his development is limited over the course of the novel which left me quite disappointed at the end.
The character I was invested in however was Ruby, who is adopted and suspected to be from an Aboriginal family. She’s incredibly talented and it’s obvious that Minty has feelings for her, and it was interesting seeing their best friend dynamic.
As someone who isn’t interested in surfing culture or reliving the music of the 90’s, I struggled to get into One Would Think the Deep. It all feels very dudebro, if you will, and I didn’t know who the novel was targeted towards – adults who wanted to relive the 90s, surfing fans or males with all talk of balls and bums. None which fit my demographic.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Thanks to UQP for sending me a review copy of the book.
This weekend I’ll be discussing the book on ABC radio as part of the OzYAY panel! Tune in on ABC radio at 7pm AEST via your local radio station, ABC radio app or http://radio.abc.net.au/ (for internationals)! Chat with us at #ABCRhi. I’ll be posting the SoundCloud link on the blog afterwards.My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Published by Balzer + Bray, Harper Collins on February 10th 2015
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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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.
This review may contain some depression and suicide triggers – please read with caution.
Depression and mental illness is a very personal thing. It’s often hard to communicate the sadness inside you, without the fear of getting judged by other people. So most people keep it inside.
That’s why My Heart and Other Black Holes is such an important book. It beautifully describes, in many different ways, how people feel with depression. And that’s what really made it compelling.
It starts out on a morbid tone, with Aysel searching online for a suicide partner. Each chapter covers a new day counting down to their mutual D-Day. It’s quite depressing at the start, as Aysel describes the depth of her depression and how it feels like there’s a ‘black slug’ inside her that sucks up all the joy. Depression is difficult to describe for those who have never experienced it, but the author communicates it in a sensitive, understanding and beautiful way.
It’s like your sadness is so deep and overwhelming that you’re worried it will drown everyone else in your life if you let them get too close to it.
When Aysel finds her suicide partner Roman however, the book progresses into an emotional bare-all journey about their suicidal thoughts and feelings. They begin to find a kinship and mutual understanding of one another, and slowly, over the course of the book, they start to care about one another. I loved the development of their unlikely friendship, as they open up about their feelings of grief, guilt and sadness. Instead of only being one person taking on the weight of the world, they become two people sharing their loads. This makes all the difference with Roman and Aysel, who find it within themselves, to care about each other more than themselves. They see in each other, a fleeting joy that comes with their passions; Roman with his love of basketball, and Aysel for her love of physics. Seeing their trust and understanding of one another definitely created some semblance of hope for the story.
There’s a strong element of mystery throughout the book, as you keep reading to find out whether they’ll go through with it.
I wasn’t prepared for the emotional journey within My Heart and Other Black Holes, but it’s one that creates a feeling of hope. It delves into the depth of sadness and guilt that these characters feel over situations they can’t help – Aysel with her father’s incarceration and Roman with the death of his sister. The most important thing about depression is finding someone you can talk to, and that’s exactly what these characters did when they found each other.
I wonder if joy has potential energy. Or if there is potential energy that leads to joy, like a happiness serum that lingers in people’s stomachs and slowly bubbles up to create the sensation we know as happiness.
I wanted to reach in and hug Aysel and Roman, to tell them that everything would be okay and that there was nothing wrong with them. Depression is such a misunderstood illness, but the fact is, there is something you can do for people suffering from it. Reach out to the people that you love and talk to them. That’s what they’re there for, and that’s the takeaway message from My Heart and Other Black Holes.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thanks HarperCollins and Balzer + Bray for the review copy of this book via Edelweiss.