January 21, 2014

Latest Read: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Here are the basics ...
Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
Publication date: Jan. 28, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received ARC at BEA

Summary: Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and Calvin Harrison, 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. Emma exists in a fog of grief, no longer cares about school and her only social outlet is her best friend Olivia. 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? (Adapted goodreads.com)
My thoughts…
The good: Heartbeat had a premise that I had never read about in a young adult novel. Emma is trying her best to cope with her mother's sudden death. But most of the time it seems impossible to deal with the reality of it when she sees her mother every day. Emma's mom is brain-head but being kept alive by machines because the baby, her brother, is growing inside of her. Emma goes to see her every day and every day, Emma's anger at the situation gets worse. She's angry at her stepfather and all the things she used to care about - grades, college, being a regular high school student - don't seem to matter anymore. It's a heartbreaking situation that I don't think anyone would know how to handle or make sense of. The author captures Emma's pain, grief and desperation vividly.

It's such an introspective novel. It was this constant stream of Emma's deepest thoughts and mostly her anger. She's going over every little detail of what lead to her mother's death in her mind. She believes it's the pregnancy and she's convinced that her mom never should've been pregnant in the first place. That all of this is her stepfather's fault. And his decision to keep her mother alive feels selfish and wrong to her and she takes all her frustration out at him. It sounds harsh and unreasonable but I believe grief does that to people. Underneath all the anger, you know she's just young girl who's lost the person she loves most in the world and she doesn't know what to do. Before all this, she had a good relationship with her stepfather but since her mom's death, Emma has put up a wall between them that they can't seem to get past. The majority of the book is spent with him trying bridge their differences and repair their relationship.

Another solid portrayal was between Emma and her best friend Olivia. When Emma feels lost to her grief, Olivia seemed to keep her anchored. Reminded her of what her life was like before and distracted her from the present with gossip and talk about boys. They hit a rough patch but instead of letting that tear them apart, they're quick to talk about what they're thinking and how they're feeling. I really appreciated that. Too often, in books, friends don't communicate and things get misinterpreted. But here, they talk and there for one another. There's also a love interest, seemingly bad boy Calvin, and I enjoyed their relationship too. It was a quiet, slow romance built on their understanding of what it's like to lose someone. It took up just the right amount of the story and it didn't detract from what Emma was going through.

(Some) reservations: I think my main reservation was that it did get reptitive. Particularly the stand-offs between Emma and her stepfather. They kept rehashing the same issues over and over and over. I wish they had had the talk you knew would eventually come a lot sooner. I think doing so and then focusing more on Emma healing vs. staying angry would've been better. Because she does make some self-aware and smart realizations but the author kept her stuck for too long instead of moving forward.

Do I recommend?: I'm kind of borderline with this. On one hand, I think the depiction of Emma's grief was well-done and like I said, it is different. But I did have a few issues with the book overall. I think you might just have to see for yourself if the premise interests you. (But maybe borrow from the library or a friend first!)

Happy reading!

2 comments:

  1. I read this book quite a while ago and I can really find myself in your review. This book was pretty out of the box or me (at the time), and while I do think it was a good read, you make a valid point about the repetition.

    They really should have had 'the' talk a lot sooner. That way Emma's anger wouldn't have been a constant throughout the entire book, but maybe the healing process would've made an appearance as well.

    Great Review!

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  2. What I liked a lot about Heartbeat was how real Emma's grief and anger felt. Sure, it made it hard for me to like her initially, but I love that it translated so well on the page too, enough so that I felt it right along with her. I also really like that the story is so simple, but something that can move a reader so deeply!

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