Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: Heartbeat

By Elizabeth Scott
Published: January 28, 2014

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?

My review:

After reading The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley which also tells the story of a brain dead pregnant woman on life support, I wondered if this book would be similar. While that book focuses on the ethical aspects and court case, Heartbeat keeps the focus on Emma. There is no court case here or much ethical discussion although Emma is against her stepfather's decision to keep her mother's body on life support for the sake of the baby.

Emma is understandably angry but she also seems incapable of seeing her stepfather Dan's grief and she can be very selfish and mean. While this did not exactly endear her to me I thought it was an authentic portrayal of Emma's feelings. She is not just angry at Dan. She is angry at herself for not spending enough time with her mom and putting too much emphasis on being the perfect student. Emma is also frightened that Dan will abandon her once he has his long awaited child. 

Emma is fortunate to have her best friend Olivia who is there for her even when Emma is being self centered. Olivia is supportive and caring even if she can't always understand what Emma is feeling or going through. Emma also develops a friendship/relationship with Caleb, the school troublemaker. Caleb does understand grief because he has suffered the loss of a loved one too. With the help of Caleb and Olivia, Emma is slowly able to forgive herself and begin to mend her relationship with Dan.

Heartbeat is a moving contemporary novel. It is sad but it also has moments of hope and light especially in the scenes between Emma and Caleb. I loved how she started to come out of her solitude with him and I think that seeing the environment he lived in and the way his parents treated him helped her in her own relationship with Dan. Emma grows as a character and she realizes some truths about herself, her mom and Dan, and what is truly important in life. 

I think that teens will find it easy to relate to Emma even if they haven't experienced such a personal loss themselves. Fans of Sarah Dessen, Sarah Ockler, Morgan Matson, and Jessi Kirby will likely enjoy it.

Note: I received an e-ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher


  1. Great review, Christina! I love Dessen, Ockler, Matson and Kirby, so I guess that means I should check this one out. I originally thought it seemed a bit too much of an emotional read for me, but it sounds like it would be worth it! I'll have to check it out. Also, I hope your mom is recovering and feeling better!

  2. This does sound really good! thanks for the great review!

  3. Lovely review. I 'enjoyed' this one even though it wasn't my favourite Elizabeth Scott but I found The Promise of Stardust that much more intense, emotionally draining and beautiful.


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