Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

heartbeatHEARTBEAT
Elizabeth Scott
Harlequin Teen
January 28, 2014

From the back cover:

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?

HEARTBEAT, at its core, is a book about navigating grief. It’s about losing someone we love and realizing that although they may be gone, we still have a life that needs to be lived. We can choose to let anger and bitterness takeover that life, as Emma does in the beginning, or we can look for the beauty that still exists in the world and find something meaningful to live for.

Elizabeth Scott has written a beautiful, complex story that will resonate with anyone who has ever experienced loss. Though her prose is sparse–almost stream of consciousness–and at times, repetitive, it none the less captivates you. The reader is so firmly in Emma’s head that we experience her grief, her anger, her longing, and finally, her hope.

I loved the romance that blossoms between Emma and Caleb. These are two damaged souls who find each other amidst their grief, and it’s a sweet, perfect, beautiful unfolding. So wonderful, in fact, that I really wished there was more. It seemed like such a small part of the story and I really would have liked to see them together on the page more. Or maybe I only felt that way because I was just so engrossed in the book and didn’t want it to end.

I do have to point out that I took issue with Emma’s anger toward her stepfather, Dan, and the way the majority of the book circles around the same conflict–that he made the decision to keep her brain-dead mother on life support for the sake of the baby without consulting Emma–and then, in the space of a few pages, all that anger and bitterness seems to dissolve. A more gradual softening would have gone a long way toward making their relationship as well drawn as Emma’s and Caleb’s.

But. The emotion in this book is tangible. It’s there. It’s in your face. Never sugar coated. Every raw word on the page for you to read and experience with Emma. And that, no matter the little issues here or there that could have been addressed differently, makes HEARTBEAT an absolutely amazing read. Highly recommended.

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