Sunday, June 22, 2014

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

YA Contemporary

Emma's life has become so small. She lost everything when her mother died, but instead of being able to grieve properly, she's trapped in a strange limbo. That's because her mother's body lies in a hospital bed, kept alive by machines while her unborn baby struggles to survive. What makes it even more complicated is Emma's daily visits to see her mother. Her mother, who's dead. Yet almost isn't, because Emma can sit beside her and hold her hand. She can watch her stomach kick and move.

You can see how traumatizing this is. To make matters worse, Emma seethes against her step-father, whom she holds responsible for all of it. If Dan didn't insist on her mom having this baby, she would still be alive. Dan cares about nothing but the baby, his future son, and Emma is being shut out from the vestige of family she has left. There's only one problem. She isn't being shut out. She's the one pushing Dan away.

It's like this with everything. Emma even holds her best friend at arm's length. She loses all interest in school, in fun, in anything other than grief and rage. Which she expresses at great decibels.

I totally understand where Emma is coming from. The scenes at the hospital are heartbreakingly sad, and the loss of a parent is one of the hardest things a person (much less a teenage girl) can go through. I loved the flashbacks with Emma's mother, because it shows us the missing pieces of Emma, the girl she had once been.

So I understand, but it doesn't make it any easier to read. Behind Emma's anger is Dan, who so obviously isn't trying to push her out into the street or onto distant relatives. Dan makes her pancakes, drives her to school, tries to talk to her the way they used to. But Emma isn't having any of it. And it's so uncomfortable and sad.

I breathed a sigh of relief when Caleb is introduced, a bad boy known for stealing cars and driving them into lakes. Caleb knows profoundly what it feels like to lose someone, and Emma finds herself drawn to him. Yet Caleb's life is equally as sad, so I didn't feel any reprieve.

My final impressions? Heartbeat is a necessary book. But it's far from being an enjoyable one.


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