by Dave Amaditz and
Welcome to April’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.
This month we're pleased to highlight debut novelists, Jasmine Warga and her novel, My Heart and other Black Holes. Aysel is depressed and contemplating suicide. She makes a pact with a suicide partner. The day for them to do it is set, but something happens to her in the meantime to throw a wrench into her plans.
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Dave – There are so many places within the novel where the main character grows. More specifically, where the main character realizes she might be changing and why, and all were written so well it was hard to choose. In the end, I decided to go with the one that follows. I think why I chose it is pretty self-explanatory.
“Someone had too much wine,” I say in as normal of voice as I can. I know he said that last night didn’t change anything, but I don’t know how to act like things haven’t changed. He’s no longer FrozenRobot, my Suicide Partner from the Internet. He’s Roman, the boy who kissed me by the river and held me all night. To me, there’s a difference. A big difference. He’s no longer the person I want to die with; he’s the person I want to be alive with.
Marcy – The main character goes through many changes throughout the novel. This scene happens when Aysel talks her suicide partner, Roman (a.k.a. – Frozen Robot) into going to a local festival. Roman decides to try to win Aysel a prize at the basketball hoop game. He hasn’t played the real game of basketball in almost a year. Aysel sees his passion and joy shine through as he makes each basket. Watching Roman experiencing joy gives her a bit of hope.
All of a sudden, I realize what that shadowy something is. It’s joy. FrozenRobot loves basketball. He loves playing it. No matter how hard he tries to push that joy away, it’s there. 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.
If that’s true, my black slug eats all of mine. Scratch that. Most of mine. Watching FrozenRobot play basketball almost made me smile. Key word: almost.
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Dave - There were so many cliffhangers to choose from. In the end, I chose this because of its upbeat message as well as the literal versus figurative meaning attached.
“I’ll let you know if I hear anything else about my dad,” I call out.
At this point, I don’t even care if his mom hears. For the first time in my life, my dad is the least of my worries. I watch Roman drop the camping supplies on the doorstep. He gives me a small backward wave, but he doesn’t turn around. I need to figure out some way to turn him around. To turn him all the way around.
Marcy – Aysel and her mom have a long overdue heart to heart about Aysel’s feelings. This chapter ending allows the reader to share an intimate scene between mother and daughter.
“I know,” I say, and lean into her again. I breath in her floral perfume and it reminds me of when I was younger, before the heaviness inside me became so overwhelming, so unbearable. I wonder if that’s how darkness wins, by convincing us to trap it inside ourselves, instead of emptying it out.
I don’t want it to win.
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Dave – My favorite secondary character is Mrs. Franklin, Roman’s (Aysel’s Suicide Partner) mother. The concern and caring she shows her son, because of his depression, is genuine and is expressed so well in the following lines of dialogue.
“Okay, well, you kids have fun. But Roman…” She puts her hand on his shoulders and her pink lacquered fingernails glint in the glow of my car’s headlights. “Will you call me if you’re going to be out late?”
In a quiet voice, she adds, “This is new for me. Letting him go off alone, unsupervised. But I couldn’t say no to him. He just seemed so happy when he talks about you. This will be good for him, right?”
Marcy – There were so many unique and terrific supporting characters in this novel. I have to choose Mr. Scott, Aysel’s physics teacher. He shows how with small acts of kindness, teachers can play a huge role in their students’ lives.
He places a glossy brochure in front of me. “The University of Kentucky sponsors a two-week summer program for students interested in the sciences.” He grabs a chair from the desk in front of mine and pulls it up so he can sit across from me. He opens the brochure and points at the text on the third page. “There’s even a special physics program. I think you’d really enjoy it.”
I take a deep breath. I can’t exactly tell Mr. Scott that I won’t be able to attend that summer program because I won’t be alive. “I have to work during the summer.”
His lips twist into a sympathetic smile. I’ve never noticed how dark and soft his eyes are; they remind me of a horse. Maybe I was wrong about Mr. Scott. Maybe he did always want to be a teacher. Maybe he’s one of those people who were built for caring.
“You don’t have to worry about the money if you get in. They give you a scholarship for the tuition and room and board for the two weeks.” He pushes the brochure closer to me. “I think it’d be a really great experience for you, Aysel.”
I take the brochure and slide it down into the depths of my backpack. I tell him I’ll consider applying and thank him for thinking of me. Later, in math class, I pull the brochure back out and run my fingers over the shiny photographs. I wonder about all the so-called great experiences I’m going to miss; I wonder about the relativity of greatness.
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave - I picked two separate sections because I think they define well the dichotomy of feelings Aysel felt, the first from the beginning of the novel, the second from the end. In the first section she responds to her sister, Georgia, who asks if she has a boyfriend.
I can’t help but laugh. If I have a boyfriend, his name is Death. And I’m pretty sure Roman is in love with him, too. It’s like a love triangle gone wrong. Or maybe it’s a love triangle gone right: we both get the guy on April 7.
The next selection occurs during a conversation with her Suicide Partner, Roman, who she has grown to care about, as he cares about her.
Something inside me clicks. It’s like I’ve spent my whole life fiddling with a complicated combination only to discover I was toying with the wrong lock. And now, the vault inside of me that contains all my secrets is swinging open and I feel this rush of blood swell in my chest.
Marcy – Aysel is the only one who truly understands Roman and he is the only one who understands her.
Frozen Robot does have a frozen quality. All of his movements and facial expressions have a tension to them, like he was carved out of stone and locked in a chamber of ice and recently brought back to life. I don’t know how to describe it, but the more I stare at him, the more I see his grief wrapped around him like shackles he can never take off. I try to imagine him without the grief, without the heaviness, without the frozenness, but it’s hard to see him as anything other than desperately sad. Yes, he looks like someone who was designed to be popular and successful, but he also looks like someone who was made to wear grief.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
Dave - This line was spoken from one of Aysel’s coworkers. The lady is usually somewhat of a pain because she always bugs Aysel about doing her job. It caused me to laugh out loud because Aysel had just met a boy, Roman, her Suicide Partner.
“You’re just weird today.” She gets up and heads to the coffee maker. “It’s almost like you’re happy. Did you finally meet someone?”
Marcy – Love these lines of dialogue. Roman wins Aysel a huge stuffed animal at the carnival basketball game. Aysel tells the attendant that she doesn’t want the prize.
I try my best to explain. “Like if another kids comes to play but doesn’t make any shots. Can you let them have a prize anyway?” I bite my bottom lip.
The woman puts her hands on her hips. “But how will I know what kid to give it to?”
I shrug. “Give it to the one who looks like they need it the most, whoever looks like the loneliest.”
To read more about Jasmine Warga’s My Heart and other Black Holes debut novel please go to: