Book Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

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.


The details:

Title: Heartbeat
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

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

    • I agree that she was very unfair to her stepfather — but I think that’s part of what impressed me so much about how the author approached the subject. I didn’t think Emma’s position was rational, but the author really made me feel how Emma’s grief and shock over this awful situation was easier for her to deal with as anger. So tragic, and no right answers. I was actually really impressed too by the stepfather’s love for Emma — it takes real love to make it through a situation like that, and if he’d only loved the mother and not the daughter, he could easily have walked away from her, especially after the way she treated him. I would definitely read more by this author!

  1. Glad you enjoyed it! While I liked this book, it wasn’t my favorite hers. I just couldn’t approve of the way Emma acted at times. But i did appreciate the premise a lot.

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