Since her mother's sudden death, Emma has existed in a fog of grief, unable to let go, unable to move forward—because her mother is, in a way, still there. She's being kept alive on machines for the sake of the baby growing inside her.
Estranged from her stepfather and letting go of things that no longer seem important—grades, crushes, college plans—Emma has only her best friend to remind her to breathe. Until she meets a boy with a bad reputation who sparks something in her—Caleb Harrison, whose anger and loss might just match Emma's own. 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?
We start off by learning that Emma's mother is dead, but being kept alive by machines so her baby may have a chance at life. This is not something Emma supports and resents her stepfather, Dan, for this decision. Once a close family, they have been torn apart by her mother's unexpected death and subsequent status.
Soon after her mother's death, Emma's life spirals out of control. Once an AP student with the skills to attend any college she chooses, she is now failing all her classes and shut herself off from everybody except her best friend, Olivia.
The great thing about this novel is that you feel Emma's pain, her grief and loss. Elizabeth translates the heartache with her words in an emotionally moving way. I suffered along with Emma, I felt lost and confused, the anger at her stepfather and the baby, the wondering why this happened.
I can't fault Emma for her anger and confusion. She and Dan are in a tricky situation. Dan believes he did what was right, while Emma can't forgive him for his decision. Is it right to keep her mother "alive" for the baby? Should she be this angry with her stepfather and hold so much hatred for this baby?
The novel felt real. Whether Emma was sitting with Olivia, giving sarcastic and hateful comments Dan, or simply thinking, I was able to picture everything that happened. To feel everything that happened.
Caleb is an amazing character, crossing paths with Emma exactly when she needed it. He's suffering from his own loss of his younger sister from years ago, a death that both he and his parents blame him for as he was watching her. As they're both suffering from crippling loss, they are able to lean on one another and comfort each other. This relationship gives them both the strength they need to heal and find the peace they need to live their lives.
There is a turning point in the novel, a conversation between Emma and her stepfather, that was so wonderfully done, it brought tears to my eyes. I flew through the novel and still felt such a connection to both the story and characters. This would be a hard subject for anybody to read, let alone wright about. Death is hard, the death of a loved one is even harder.
Elizabeth handles this tricky topic with class and taste. It's a simple reminder to love the ones we love while we can. Emma talks about how she shouldn't have worried so much about homework and spent just a bit more time with her mother, and while it's easy to say that in hindsight, it's a bit tricky in the moment. This novel is not only a beautiful story, but a beautiful reminder that "grief holds you tight. It holds you forever. But we can hold each other too."
The relationship or deterioration was one thing that I kept my fingers crossed would be a place where Emma saw the truth of things. Luckily this was an area of the book where there was quite a bit of focus, and with it progress, and both sides admitting where they were wrong and the big c word: compromise. But above all, love and working through problems instead of just letting it simmer and one day explode under the pressure.
I am glad for Emma that she has her best friend Olivia there for her. Olivia is the kind of friend that we all want, quirky but loyal to the end. She provides rides, a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on for Emma.
We all know that Emma and Caleb, the bad boy mentioned in the synopsis will have chemistry and a relationship, but I like how it came to be. Their first encounters were by chance and overall antagonistic since Emma was so emotional, and it seemed that Caleb was defensive. I loved getting to know what was underneath Caleb's mask. I figured it was due to pain or loss, esp how when he saw Emma's mom he had understanding, a deeper connection than the pity or sorry for your loss of someone who just doesn't get it. I liked their slower build to romance and that they had a connection, they had a spark, definite chemistry, but they also had deep, real, hard conversations.
I will say there were some of the medical aspects that I felt were stretching the lines of plausibility, but then again, my medical knowledge is pretty limited and I have never done research on this sort of case. However, this did not at all take away from my enjoyment of this book. In fact, I devoured it, finishing in one day.
I think that the ending was good, but I wanted to know more. It wrapped up with Emma in a good place for continued healing, and accepting that it is okay to grieve, to miss her mom, but it is also okay to be happy.
Bottom Line: Emotional story of a girl's loss of her mother and coming to terms with the unconventional family that's left.
In Heartbeat, Scott has told the story in the voice of Emma, a 17yr old girl who not only lost her mother, but the family and life she had. She can’t reconcile this new situation with her previous and her rage makes her lash out. Her pain is persistent, as her mother is dead yet kept alive by her stepfather, on artificial life support, so that the child could be born. She has no closure because she can’t totally get over the loss of her mom while her body is still alive in the hospital. The storytelling makes every emotion of hers alive – whether she is grieving, or whether she is feeling numb. You can feel her pain and goodness, it makes you cry. I was crying since chapter 8, I guess, and whenever my tears would dry out, another scene would get me teary-eyed again.
Her relationship with her stepfather is so complicated – they all were a happy family once, and ready to welcome the new addition to the family. Now with his decision to keep her mother’s body alive for the baby’s sake, she hates him and wants to punish him for putting her through the torture of having to see her mother daily, in that state. She blames him for not caring for her mother enough and fears abandonment.
During this difficult time, she meets Caleb who is a kindred soul. He is also grieving a lost one and his grief made him do things he will have to live with. At first, she feels he might save her from herself but she ends up saving him and in doing so, she realizes what she has been doing all along. There is romance but it does not take center stage; Emma’s story is what the focus of the book is and that makes it more beautiful.
A particularly interesting fact about this book is that, though it is completely written from Emma’s perspective, you can feel the emotions of every other character – not through Emma but through the prose. The narrative is dynamic and keeps up with the subtle shifts in Emma’s emotions. The overall mood of the book is sad and heart-wrenching but if you want to read a book that really makes you feel, then this is the book for you.
Disclaimer: Received a copy from Harlequin Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Grief manifests itself in so many ways, and sometimes it's hard to feel pity for someone who uses their grief as an excuse to treat people like crap. There is no reason to treat people like crap.
That was my biggest issue with Emma. She's grieving the loss of her mother to the point where she treats her stepfather like crap.He's clearly hurting as well but Emma doesn't see it. All she sees is the decision to keep her mom on life support until it's safe for her baby brother to be born. She doesn't even consider the probability that her stepfather and her mother had already had that "what if" conversation.
I get it. I get feeling like no one else knows her mother like she does. I feel the same way about my own mother. But what I don't understand is why she is so angry at Dan. He didn't kill her mother. Yet Emma blames him completely for it.
Emma was horribly selfish all the way through the book and it frustrated me to no end.I felt worse for Dan actually. He was trying to talk to her. He was hurting and he was scared for the baby.Yet Emma turned a deaf ear to him. He was the only family she had nearby and he still loved her and needed her in his life. Emma was so angry that she didn't see it.
The thing with Caleb was weird too. I didn't buy that they could be in love by the end of the book. That was a relationship formed out of convenience. Caleb and Emma understood each other, but a couple has to have more than just a shared experience of watching someone they love die.While a truamautic experience can and often does change people, this was just too much. She didn't even know Caleb before her mother died and suddenly just because she dies, Emma notices him? Yeah, call me skeptical, but that's not how it works.
The only portion I liked was the bit with Dan about 3/4's of the way through it. Emma finally got all her feelings out and Dan was allowed to get his out too. However, I don't think the instant forgiveness thing worked here.Given how angry Emma was throughout the book, it's just not plausible that she's suddenly not angry with Dan for his decision.
The premise was good and I was super excited for it. However the execution of it fell flat. The only character I actually liked was Dan, the rest of them were boring and obnoxious.Editing-wise the book was great.This book will be getting 2 stars. I didn't enjoy this one all that much.