Book Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
Grief and anger explode off the page in Heartbeat, a young adult novel that fairly sizzles with its main character’s rage. 17-year-old Emma is consumed by pain over the loss of her mother, who is brain-dead but being kept alive by machines for the sake of her unborn baby. Emma’s stepfather Dan brings Emma to the hospital each day to visit her mother, but Emma can barely control her hatred and resentment toward Dan and toward the baby. Once completely devoted to her studies and determined to be top of the class, Emma now goes through the motions and can’t be botheredwith schoolwork. Once happy and in a loving relationship with her kind stepfather, Emma now blames him for her mother’s death, and literally locks him out of her room and her life.
The sole link to her former happy life is Emma’s best friend Olivia, who provides her with daily chitchat and distraction. And then Emma meets Caleb, the only person at her school who’s anywhere near as messed up as she is, and Emma gradually learns that pain and grief come in all different forms — but so does love.
Heartbeat is painfully sad to read, and yet it’s also quite beautiful in many ways. In learning the depths of Emma’s loss, we see her memories of the time before, and just how happy a family full of love can be. By peeling back layer after layer of family memories and experiences, the author shows us how devastating all of this is for Emma — not just the loss of her mother, but the loss of the love and safety she she once felt in her home and with her family.
Emma’s rage is the flip side of that love and is the way that she channels the grief that overwhelms her. Emma’s memories of her relationship with her mother are lovely and wistful, and the suddenness and senselessness of her loss come across with a visceral impact. Emma will never get her mother back, but by the end of Heartbeat, she’s beginning to find glimmers of hope for a future that might still have meaning and even love in it.
Heartbeat shows us the anger of a someone who’s lost the person at the center of her life. I read Heartbeat with tears in my eyes — but despite the pain and loss, there’s an honesty and fierceness in the writing that makes this an important and emotionally compelling book. I recommend Heartbeat for anyone who appreciates young adult fiction that doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects. It is not an easy book to read, but it is strong and memorable, moving and definitely thought-provoking.
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication date: January 28, 2014
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Young adult contemporary
Source: Review copy courtesy of Harlequin Teen via NetGalley