Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

January 24, 2014

Title: Heartbeat
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publication date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Rating: 
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
Amazon Goodreads
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?
Hearbeat's cover was what first drew me to it. Or, well, the cover-thats-not-really-it's-cover - the teal one that said 'cover to come soon' or something like that. I love that colour - teal, so when I saw it all over the 'cover' I had to investigate. But once I had a look at the blurb, the storyline pulled me in, and I knew I had to read this. I've also heard a lot about Elizabeth Scott's books, and that she's of the likes of Sarah Dessen and Sarah Ockler, one of the classic YA writers, and since I hadn't read any of her previous works, I was really excited when I got approved for Heartbeat.

A word of caution: dont read Heartbeat if you dont like sad books. I do, as a matter of fact, so I was okay with it, but I know some people cant handle a lot of sadness in their books, and Heartbeat has more than the normal dose of it.

After trying hard for a very long time, Emma's mother Lisa is finally pregnant with her second child. But a few months into her pregnancy, Lisa has a massive stroke, and just... dies. Attempts at revival fail, but they find that the baby is still alive. They can keep Lisa alive artificially, until the baby is strong enough to survive on his own, or else they can let both mother and child die. Dan makes a spur of the moment decision to keep her alive, without consulting Emma. But what he doesn't realise is the agony that they both have to go through, visiting a dead person in the ICU, forced to behave like she's alive, and the reverberations this decision casts over their relationship, and on Emma's life.

Like the children's book I recently reviewed, Heartbeat is also a story about a young girl coming to terms with grief. But in Heartbeat, Emma has to deal with the kind of grief that no one should ever have to. It's horrifying and devastating, and I'm saying this about the reader. Imagine how it would be for the person who's actually going through it.

It's a tough subject that the author has tried to throw light upon in the book, which sits up there with issues like euthanasia. I have to give it to her, though, she's managed to present both sides of the argument to us equally, inspite of the fact that the story's written from Emma's point of view. But still, I somehow cant reconcile myself with the fact that such things are done, even though I understand the why of it.

I wasn't able to connect very well with Emma's character, but that's not surprising, considering that I've never gone through anything of that magnitude, and so cant understand her rationale. But the lack of that 'connection' s probably what resulted in a poor reading experience. It's obvious that a lot of things she does is a consequence of what she's going through. She knows that she's on a downward spiral, but doesn't know how to stop it. She's just trying to cope in the best ways she knows, in a world where she's suddenly found herself alone. Having to grieve for a mother who's right in front of you everyday, whose hand you hold, whom you talk to, but who's actually dead, but has your brother living inside her, a brother you dont know whether to love or hate, can mess up a person badly, and our heart just goes out to her.
And even though she's gone, I dont want to let her go.
I dont know if I can.
However, I do think her 'relationship' with Caleb is a result of her state of mind while she's grieving for her mother, and I wonder if they would've gotten together had they met in any other circumstance. And honestly, I dont see why there even is a romantic angle to this story. It felt like it was added to stick to a 'formula' that books have to have a 'love story' in them, and as consequence, felt forced and artificial.

Caleb... even by the end of the book, I couldn't say I liked him. Which is not to say that I didn't like him. We come to know of the things he's done and the horrible life he lives with his parents (very disturbing), for which he earns our sympathy, but he never explains in so many words why he does any of it. It's implied that he does it in a bid to get attention, but that's just our interpretation. I wish I got to know Caleb better, because I think I could've liked him.

As for Dan, he's forced to pick between his wife and his child, so you really cant blame him if he's morose all through the book (like I said, it's a sad book, people). But he does try his best to patch things up with Emma, and for that, you've got to give him credit.

I loved Scott's writing in this book, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her works. It's evocative, making us understand exactly what the characters are going through, which is why this book is so hard hitting. I cant say I was very happy with the ambiguous ending or with the romance, but I'm still glad I read this book, because it presents an unvarnished view of a sensitive issue that's often hushed up because it's not considered polite drawing room conversation.

Bottomline: Raw and heart wrenching, Elizabeth Scott does not pull any punches with Heartbeat. If you can stand sad stories, and dont mind a lukewarm romance, go for it!

Harley Bear Book Blog: I feel that Contemporary books have a certain recipe that make them extraordinary and the author didn't even glance at it while concocting this book.

Nick's Book Blog: I think there are going to be readers who understand the main character and appreciate the book better than I did. 

As Told by Rachel: Heartbeat is a gut-wrenching, intense novel, that I think a lot of readers will love.

Holding Quote:
I want to talk about it so much; I love you and I miss you and I wish you were here but not like this, I dont want you here like this and I know I'm seventeen but I dont want you to be gone. I want you to open your eyes and tell me everything is going to be okay. I want you to squeeze my hand and tell me something, anything. I want to hear your voice, not the machines that beep all around us.

If everything matters, then nothing can because it's all the same. And if it's all the same, then nothing is ever special. And shouldn't there be - aren't there - special things? People?