Young Adult Literature

Read This, Then That: MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES and Other YA Books That Love Physics

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Eric Smith

Staff Writer

Eric Smith an author, blogger, and literary agent based in Philadelphia. When he isn’t busy trying to discover new books, he sometimes tries to write his own. Blog: Eric Smith Twitter: @ericsmithrocks

my heart

And the prestigious First Ugly Cry of the Year Award ™ goes to… Jasmine Warga, for her debut novel, My Heart and Other Black Holes. Congrats. Please, dry your eyes, and then join me in uproarious applause when you have a moment. Thank you.

So let’s talk a little bit about the book that made me cry, and caused my dog to snuggle me out of worry. No seriously, that happened.

My Heart and Other Black Holes introduces readers to Aysel, a high school outcast who spends her days drifting in and out of class, her free time working at a telemarketing company, and her daydreams…well, they’re full of plans to kill herself.

Poor Aysel is not okay.

She’s struggling with crippling depression with no one to turn to, surrounded by her broken family, a typical high school of judgmental, gossipy peers, and a ruined community…all of which stem from a violent crime committed by her father years ago.

She decides that taking her own life might be easier if she had a partner. Enter Roman (or FrozenRobot, his user name on the message board she discovers him on), a teenager with his own set of troubles and a serious love of Jules Verne. They meet to set their plan in motion.

What follows is one of the most unique stories of love and loss I’ve had the fortune to read- a novel full of diverse, complicated, wounded characters that are really easy to fall for. Throughout the book, Aysel asks questions about her potential energy, as she’s smitten with physics. What happens when her energy is extinguished? And Roman’s, where will it go? She is constantly questioning and searching, and her passion for science is contagious. It’s the sort of thing you can easily see transferring over to an eager young reader.

That, and the importance of talking about how you feel, as well as helping others who are struggling. It’s a point Warga seriously drives home, not just in the book, but in her notes in the back, providing resources and outlets for young readers who might be struggling with issues similar to the two main characters. If one of the goals of young adult books is to help young readers grow emotionally and intellectually…Warga’s debut is sure to be a massive success in that field.

Now, if you’re hungry for more science in your YA reads, that’s easy to find. Physics, string-theory, other planes-of-existence…those plot points exist in plenty of other books. Here’s a little list to keep you reading, YA fans, after you’ve finished Warga’s debut.

relativityRelativity by Cristin Bishara: I’ve definitely talked about Bishara’s debut novel here before. Instead of being in love with physics, Relativity’s protagonist is all about string theory and, well, relativity.

And yes, while they are all looped into the same big ol’ Bucket of Science ™, Relativity explores jumping into new planes where other possibilities suddenly become possible, such as the main character’s mother still being in her life, or a brother existing when there wasn’t one before.

Bishara’s protagonist finds herself jumping from place to place, hoping to find the perfect one, while wondering if maybe the place she belongs is the plane where she belongs.


3593:59 by Gretchen McNeil: In McNeil’s book, we explore the idea of a parallel universe even more, with another science genius main character. Much like Relativity, 3:59 dishes out the science as it takes you through the plot, requiring me to visit Wikipedia (shhh don’t tell the English professors of my past) to learn a bit more about what I was reading. And that’s awesome.

And like Bishara’s debut, 3:59 features a girl that isn’t too thrilled with her life, and ends up exploring a parallel plane that might offer something better. Only…maybe it doesn’t.

The grass is always green on the other side of the dimensional event horizon, or so the saying goes.


paraParallel by Lauren Miller: When two parallel universes collide into one another, Parallel’s protagonist discovers she’s on the other side of the country, living a new, strange life. And her parallel self, well, she’s in her former life, falling for someone she’s never even met.

With the help of her science genius bestie, she seeks to figure out just what’s going on with her life, and how she live out this new life.


Now, dear Rioters. What are some of your favorite YA reads, with fun, physics, and relativity twists? There have got to be more out there. Let’s hear them!



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