Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source: BEA/Blog Tour
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?(courtesy of Goodreads)
Elizabeth Scott is a renowned YA author, known not only for the quantity of her books (12 so far) but for the breadth of her style. She's written romances, an extremely disturbing kidnapping book, and contemporary issues books. Heartbeat falls into the contemporary YA issue novel category.
As it says in the synopsis, Emma's mother recently died from a freak accident but is being kept alive as a vessel for her unborn child. The synopsis also implies that a romance is at the heart of this novel and it is indeed a large part of the eventual plot. But the true "star" of this novel is Emma's anger.
Emma is livid that her stepfather is keeping her mother alive until their baby is viable. She is convinced that Dan doesn't care about her mother at all; all he wants is the kid. She's deluded herself into thinking that her mother never wanted the baby in the first place, she only got pregnant to make Dan happy, so her death is Dan's fault.
I hated Emma.
In an objective sense, I understood her anger. People deal with grief in different ways and anger is one of those ways. Similarly, her stepfather seemed detached, because that's partly how he was dealing with his own grief. But subjectively, I wanted to bash her head in with a mallet. First of all, it was obvious to everyone but Emma that her stepfather was wonderful - treated Emma as his own child - and was doing what he thought Emma's mom would want. Second of all, I can't understand Emma's anger at her mother being kept alive for the fetus. It's not like she had anything better to do. Kind of like being an organ donor.
Since my hatred for Emma overpowered everything else about this book, it was very hard to read. Otherwise, it was a perfectly fine novel. It's well written; the pacing is fantastic. By using short sentences and short chapters, Ms. Scott managed to convey heightened emotion and immediacy. I was able to finish the book in a few hours - not because I was skimming but because the book flowed so well.
The romance is good. Caleb is the typical bad boy with a damaged side. And he does have good reason to rebel. What a horrific set of parents. Kind of one dimensionally bad, but on the other hand, I believed it. Emma and Caleb's relationship progressed quickly but not in a way that felt like insta-love. And Emma's slow emergence out of her monstrous shell into a decent human being was - albeit somewhat rushed - a logical outcome as their relationship grew and other events occurred.
Heartbeat is an instance of a good book hitting my negative emotions very hard. I can't say I enjoyed this book, because Emma infuriated me so much, but I know quality writing when I see it. If you like well written issues novels and don't mind unlikable characters, this will be a good book for you.
Rating: 3 / 5
Straight from the headlines:
*Interestingly, a twist on this issue is currently in the news. In Texas, a pregnant woman died from a blood clot. She was without oxygen for maybe an hour before anyone found her, so the chance of her fetus being viable is low. Her husband and parents want her removed from life support, but the state of Texas has a law that requires pregnant women to remain on life support until a fetus becomes viable. She is being kept alive despite the wishes of her family. A very difficult ethical issue.*
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