Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Publication date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format: eARC, 304 pages
How I got it: NetGalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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?
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
In Review: My Thoughts
“My mother’s name was Lisa Davis Harold, and she was strong and beautiful. She was a person, she had her own thoughts, and I remember that. I remember how she was. Who she was. I remember her. I’m the only one who does.”
Heartbeat tackles an issue I’ve never really thought much (read: anything) about – keeping a dead person alive on machines so the unborn baby inside of them has a chance to live. Emma’s mom had a difficult time conceiving and had some health issues that led her to a very risky pregnancy. She suffered a brain aneurysm and died, but the decision was made to keep her alive on machines until the baby was further along and hopefully capable of surviving. I am grateful the bad things happened before the beginning of the book. As much of a mess as I was reading this book, I can only imagine it would have been that much worse had I been made to experience it all first-hand with Emma.
“Mom, I’m sorry,” I whisper now as I step into school, and I hope she hears me. That she forgives me. That she can help me find a way to untangle the knot of hate in my heart, because it’s there. It’s there, and I feel it. It’s there, and I can’t make it go away. I understand what she meant now about the edge and how hate can take over everything. I see it. I feel it. But I don’t know how to stop it. And the one person who could, the one person who’d be able to pull me back, is gone.
Through the course of this book, I found myself trying to put myself in Emma’s shoes. How would I feel if my mother’s new husband kept my mom hooked up to machines so that their son had a chance of surviving? Would I be angry? Sad? Grief-stricken? Filled with hate? When my relationship with him suffered because he seemed more concerned about the baby than me, how would that make me feel? Jealous? Heartbroken? Would it make me feel completely alone, like I lost two parents? Who would I turn to for support? What would happen when I met a new guy who seemed to understand everything I was going through? I concluded I would be a gigantic ball of messy feelings, much like Emma was in this book. I can’t fault her for any of her emotions or actions in this book. It’s an unfathomable situation she’s in and I think the fact that she was even upright said a lot.
“I see what grief does, how it strips you bare, shows you all the things you don’t want to know. That loss doesn’t end, that there isn’t a moment where you are done, when you can neatly put it away and move on.”
Heartbeat is about more than a controversial issue though. It’s about grief and anger, heartbreak and hope, first love, and most of all, relationships. Emma’s relationship with her mom, her mom’s relationship with Dan, Emma’s relationship with Dan, Emma’s friendship with Olivia, and Emma’s relationship with Caleb were all focused on in this book. Each of them was unique and filled me with a different emotion. I loved watching Caleb and Emma’s friendship grow and evolve into something else. They were two souls who needed someone to lean on and found the perfect person in each other. Emma and Dan’s relationship was downright painful at times. There was resentment and guilt and anger, but there was also love. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a step-parent/step-child to continue a relationship when the person who brought them together in the first place is no longer there. It would be tough, I think, in any situation, but it was made that much worse given the situation they were in.
“He tastes like salt, like tears. He tastes like pizza and grief and love and fear. He tastes like Caleb and I want more and there is a noise and it isn’t me. I am not saying anything now, I know I’m not, and I pull away and it’s Caleb, he is making that noise, a broken, almost animal sound, his head thrown back and I can see a pulse beating in his neck. It’s his heart and it is beating and I can make it beat fast and I like that and I move in again.”
Heartbeat was angsty and emotional and, at times, downright uncomfortable to read. Not that I truly fault any of the characters for their actions or the things they said. I feel like the author navigated this tricky subject in a wonderful way. I sympathized with both Emma and Dan. My heart broke for both of them. As painful as the story was at time, it was also hopeful. It was beautifully-written and the characters were complex, and while not always necessarily likable, understandable. I only wanted good things for all of them, especially after all the pain they’d been through. Though I wouldn’t mind checking in on these characters from time, I felt like the story was complete at the end and I was very happy with how it all worked out. If you’re looking for a book to make you feel, I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
“Words can lie but hugs can’t. You know when they are real and this is real and Dan is here and that means he didn’t leave me, that he’s not going to send me away to Mom’s parents or to some boarding school or just kick me out. It means the Dan I knew is here. That I still matter to him.”
This was my first Elizabeth Scott read. It absolutely won’t be my last. I love the honesty and realness of her characters and her writing. I felt like I was part of the story, not just an observer.