January 28, 2014
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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?
There is something - or, perhaps, a lot of somethings - rather perfect about Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott.
The premise of the novel, with Emma's mother brain-dead, yet being kept 'alive' via machines so that the baby inside her can continue to grow and live, has the potential to be controversial, even message-y. Heartbeat is not, though. The story is Emma's story. It's the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who has lost her mother . . . without physically losing her just yet.
As Emma herself says at one point (digital galleys don't have page numbers*), "I thought you were gone. I forgot that you are." Emma is going through the heartache of losing her mother, but at the same time it's both compounded and complicated by the circumstances.
Every day that she sees her mother - her dead, yet not dead mother - we can feel Emma's pain and see the wall going up between not only Emma and her step-father, but also Emma and her unborn sibling. There's more angst and pain than I've read in any of Elizabeth Scott's other novels and, yet, I absolutely love it.
When Caleb comes into the story, things only get better. He's far from a ray of sunshine. He doesn't make everything better; doesn't have promises of remedying it all for Emma, but he's just what both Emma (this new Emma, changed by grief and and unthinkable situation) and the story need.
Emma and Caleb are a bit reminiscent, for me, of the characters in Katie McGarry's novels and the bonds they have. Caleb has his own, unique life that has shaped him into the character that meets Emma. It's different from anything I've read before but also very plausible and fits who he now is. As well how his story fits with Emma's story and their story.
The part of the novel dealing with the baby, with Emma's sibling, was done very well. It was, I will admit, the one thing that had me a little bit worried. Prior to starting the book, I was a little anxious, on a personal level, if I would like the outcome, how it was handled. As I read more and more, got to know Emma and connected to with her, I worried over the outcome for her. I don't think it could have been done either differently or better.
A bit different from Elizabeth Scott's previous novels, it's easily my favorite. Most, if not all, of us will never be in Emma's situation, but Scott connects readers with what could be very foreign siuations. From Emma's grief, her anger, her confusion, even possible love, it's all encapsulated beautifully here. Heartbeat ends just when it needs to end, but is a book that will not soon leave your head - or your heart.
thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital galley for review
*checking against print, final version when possible