Author: Elizabeth Scott
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Published: January 28 2014
Source: publishers via NetGalley
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?
Elizabeth Scott is a pretty distinctive writer. It's easy to pick her books out by her sparse, pared-down style, but also from their often vaguely reminiscent of real-life and controversial premises. I'm always drawn to the tough topics she chooses to write about, as she approaches everything in a very different manner, but something in the execution is usually lacking for me. This is the third novel by Scott that I have read in the last year and it's the first to crack a 3.5/5 stars.
Scott likes to explore the tough subjects. Death is a familiar face in every book of hers that I have encountered, and it is so here again in Heartbeat. Scott has never been an author to shy away from negative emotions, bleak POVs, or no-win situations. She tackles this touchy subject as bluntly as is her style, but reserves final judgement. Main character Emma's feelings about what has happened are obvious (but prejudiced), but they're not presented as the final/right word about how to deal with this situation. Emma doesn't look beyond her mom's personal fight and Heartbeat is not really a commentary on final rights.
The story of Emma's mom is sadly familiar but this book is really the story of the fallout waiting for the baby, instead of focusing on the decision about the mom's condition. This makes it much more Emma's story than her mother's. It's Emma's journey from grief to acceptance and maturity. Emma is a difficult character. She's selfish, bitter, angry, self-centered and scared. She's unlikeable. But I can understand Emma. I was like Emma myself a few years ago for a short period of time. She isn't perfect and smiley and happy, but she is real and an HONEST representation of a grieving teen.
Honestly, I would have liked Heartbeat better if it had been without a romance. That isn't to say I didn't like Caleb (he was okay, had some interesting moments and characterization) but this story was never about Emma finding a boyfriend for me. I wanted it to be about Emma's personal struggle and that soon after losing her mother in such a painful way, well, I don't think a romantic relationship is the best idea. I really liked that she had such a strong friendship with Olivia (who is awesome), but wished a romantic relationship had been more hinted at as a possibility than an absolute coupledom by the end.
Heartbeat is a good book; the best of Elizabeth Scott's I've had the chance to read. I didn't cry because I wasn't terribly emotionally invested, but I was interested in the outcome and seeing how Emma grew and changed over the course of the novel. I love that this author continues to explore the harder aspects of teen life and can't wait to see what comes next from her. This isn't the easiest of books to read, despite how quickly it reads, but it will speak to a certain kind of reader.