Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Life. Death. And…Love?
Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.
But Emma can’t tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.
Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn’t have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.
Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?
When I read the description of Heartbeat, I was unsure how I felt. Dead-mother bad-boy books are always a risk. So many are wrought with endless cliches and they can get old after a while.
Heartbeat wasn’t one of those books. Emma and her mother and stepfather had a good life together. Emma loved her stepfather and her mother was her best friend. When her mom got pregnant, everyone was happy and surprised, as the chances of it were slim.
Then, her mother unexpectedly collapses and dies immediately, but her stepfather puts her on life-support to keep the baby alive until he can live on his own. Emma quickly despises her stepfather for keeping her mother trapped, dead in her own body and ends up intensely resenting him and her unborn brother for it. Grief for her mother and frustration with her stepfather and brother consume her. She loses interest in school, which used to be seriously important to her. She locks herself in her room everyday to keep her stepfather out. She stops eating.
Enter: Caleb Harrison. A boy with a bad reputation, but an even worse family life. His loss and guilt and weight of sadness that he carries lessens the burden of Emma’s when they meet. And she, in turn, lessens his.
I think this book is a refreshing take on excruciating loss that some teenagers experience. Elizabeth Scott does an excellent job at portraying the full, mature, universal emotions felt by young people when they face the death of a family member, or friend. I think, often, people underestimate the capacity of a young person to feel and express what adults feel when they are confronted by crippling conflict. They romance was realistic, it wasn’t overdone. It wasn’t cheesy or stereotypical. It wasn’t dramatic, it was just exactly what you’d expect from two people struggling to keep themselves upright.
I liked the moral aspect of the book, too. Some YA novels never have the chance to get that deep and to ask scary questions, like ‘What does a life cost?’ Scott didn’t back down from these issues, and I think that is what makes this book transcendent of the ‘typical YA genre.’ (I think any well-written, well-planned YA book is transcendent of the YA genre, but that’s just me).
The only parts that I didn’t like were the frequent moments of deep clarity. It sort of seemed like Emma was having an existential epiphany in every chapter and it became redundant and less meaningful. I think including less, but more powerful moments like that would have been a lot more effective and memorable.
Overall, great book for YA fans to read. Short, to the point, and entertaining. It kept me reading nonstop until I finished.
Rating: 7 out of 10