Book Review: Heartbeat
By: Elizabeth Scott
Published By: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Page Count: 304
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
I've read Elizabeth Scott's work before so I was expecting this one to have an unforgettable romance, but I also knew it would probably also provide commentary on some serious issues. All of her female leads are dealing with difficulty within their families. I honestly didn't read the summary of this one. I chose to read it simply based on my previous experiences with Scott's work. I was taken completely by surprise from chapter one until the very end. This might just be one of the most difficult books I have ever read. It's heart-breaking, beautiful, hopeful, and thought provoking.
Emma never expected time to stop. She's only seventeen and she has her whole life ahead of her, but Emma always thought her mother would be around for everything. On a typical morning, her mother reaches for a piece of toast and quietly slips away from the world. Emma and her stepfather, Dan, are in complete shock. The person that mattered most to them has ceased to exist in the blink of an eye; they didn't even get a chance to say goodbye. To make matters more complicated, Emma's mother, Lisa, is pregnant. Dan makes the difficult decision to keep Lisa's body alive in order to give the baby a chance at life. Dan's decision drives a wedge between him and Emma. Emma begins to spiral down a path of grief and self destruction. She just can't handle her mother's death and her current reality.
Grief novels are always difficult for me to read, but I force myself to do it because they are some of the most powerful novels out there. As much as I adore all the romance and happy endings in most of the books I read, that isn't always reality. There is just as much sorrow in this world as there is joy. While my happy reading and my difficult reading will never truly balance, I do feel that tackling a difficult read needs to happen from time to time. I also feel like this story would be an excellent addition to a high school teacher's library. Teens need literary outlets that mirror their experiences.
I think what made this novel so difficult for me was the subject matter. I don't recall having ever read a novel in which a character is being kept alive. I know this issue has been a controversial one in the media in my lifetime, but I have never seen it drive the plot in a YA novel. (That isn't to say another novel with this topic doesn't exist. I just haven't read it.) I went back and forth between Dan's viewpoint and Emma's. I don't know that I ever truly made a decision about what I thought would have been the best course of action. I can't imagine not fighting for a child, but I also can't imagine how horrible it would be to see someone I love here, but not here on a daily basis.
This novel instantly brought to mind the debate about Terri Schiavo and the right to live. I remember being so torn about her case. This novel stirred up those thoughts and feelings once again. Granted Lisa and Terri's situations were different, I still wonder if other readers, particularly ones my ages, will make these connections.
Overall, this story broke my heart, but it did end on a hopeful note. I feel this novel is an extremely important one. Scott has truly given a voice to an issue that I feel needs more discussion. Grief is one of the things that binds all humans together. It doesn't discriminate. It effects us all. Novels like this one show us that we are not alone as we tackle the destruction Grief leaves behind in its wake. In fact, Emma explains grief best, "grief is slippery, a tangle of thorns that dig in so deep you don't know where they stop and you start. You don't know where you are" (Kindle Location 749). These words and this story will haunt me for a long time to come.
One Last Gripe: I couldn't give this one 5 birdies because I did have to put it down multiple times. I would hit emotional overload and have to walk away. I would suggest having Netflix and/or kleenex handy for those moments when you need a mental break.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I liked that it was different approach to grief and death.
First Sentence: I sit down with my mother.
Favorite Character: Emma - she's a difficult one, but give her time
Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one. The true villians in this one are death and grief.
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?