BOOK IN REVIEW: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

11:30 PM


Title: Heartbeat
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publishing Date: January 28, 2014
Hardcover: 304 pages
Format: ARC
Rating: 3/5 stars
Heartbeat is the story of Emma, a 17 year old girl whose pregnant mother has been proclaimed brain dead. But Emma still has to deal with seeing her dead mother everyday - a pregnant woman strapped to machines whose body is being kept alive for the baby growing inside it. Though Emma used to be close to her stepfather, Dan, she cannot comprehend what made him choose to do this to her mother - especially without even asking her what she wanted. When she meets Caleb, a messed up boy who steals cars and does drugs, they strike up an unlikely friendship and Emma begins to live again.

I wasn't prepared for this book at all. It was a very emotional ride and there were plenty of parts which I would not like to read again. I almost didn't finish it (whew! but I kept on!) because I couldn't handle Emma's emotions and her anger and bitterness were eating me out alive. I can't like this book - I really can't  -because I found it such a negative read. Never have I come across a more bitter and angry protagonist. Never have I encountered such a negative and hateful voice, it resonated across the book and it made me feel dark inside. I cannot recommend this to other people as it only made me feel bad and I tried really hard to find it moving, stimulating or at the very least hopeful, but there was almost nothing but just pure hatred.

My problem with this book is the protagonist, Emma. I have read about sad and screwed up teenagers, and I almost always could relate to them - even The Bell Jar's Esther Greenwood. However, the character of Emma is a different thing altogether. I couldn't seem to connect to her. I couldn't relate and she felt as real to me as Santa Claus. To me Emma was a selfish and annoying character who just kept talking about her problems again and again all throughout the book. At some points of the story, I thought she had already realized how selfish she was but then she would just revert back to her old spiteful self and snap at her stepfather all over again. I don't mean to judge but it's hard to empathize with her, because the whole book she just complains - and it's not only til the last few pages does she realize her mistakes. Emma's character felt half baked, like I just couldn't seem to find a person underneath all that angst. For instance what does Emma like? Does she like poetry, painting, reading? What? We never do get a glimpse of anything about Emma except for the fact that her mother is dead but is kept alive for the baby and that she's currently flunking school. There's not much substance and we only get to see one layer of the Emma in this story- the angry, hurt and bitter Emma who just can't possibly be mature enough to understand that the baby is also her brother. There is much more to Emma beyond that, I had hoped, but sadly the book focused more on her anger rather than her journey to forgiveness and acceptance. Emma didn't come off as human to me, she was just angry.


I liked the secondary characters though, like Olivia who was a great best friend. I loved how she was always there for Emma despite Emma not being too likeable. I also liked Dan; he is a very nice person and though I understand how Emma can hate him, I felt he was very human and real and I understood his choices as well. Caleb, on the other hand, I felt he was an actual real person who has problems and has no friends because people think he's dangerous. As opposed to Emma, he felt more real to me. Their relationship however felt lacking to me.

I initially read Heartbeat because I wanted to see a love story between two tormented teenagers, two people who are able to find love amidst all their problems, but as I neared the end of the story I realized that 90% of the book was teen angst and only 10% was the love story. Now I didn't want them to like save each other; I wanted Emma to become independent and be able to save herself, as that is a very strong message of female and self empowerment. However, I wanted to see how her relationship with Caleb would help her become a better person. The sad thing is I felt that her romance with Caleb (though very little in the book) was quite superfluous, in the sense that I couldn't seem to understand what made them like each other, except for the fact that they both had really screwed up lives. That's actually the only thing they have in common. It makes sense for them to become friends after everything they've each gone through as they have a shared understanding of what it feels like to lose someone, but to become lovers on just that basis, it seemed like a very sad relationship only bent on comforting each other and talking about their problems with each other. There was not much relationship development between the two and I didn't like that. I also didn't like how they spent a lot of their time just moping about their sad sad lives; I wish they could've done more normal fun everyday teenager things. I did like the cotton candy bit though - that was very sweet!

Characters aside, I found the writing and plot structure to be just so-so and fair. I just felt like some parts were repetitive and found the story very slow as it took place only mostly at Emma's house, school, the hospital and occasionally Caleb's house. Emma talked about her feelings too much and I felt like I get it, I already know that you're hurt and you hate your stepfather and that your mom died and now you have to watch her lifeless body being secured to machines so the baby can be alive and be delivered - you don't have to keep repeating it. It was getting more and more redundant and I felt like Emma didn't change much for most of the book - the change only actually registered at the last few pages, and I'm not even sure what triggered it. I don't find the coming to terms with her problem all that convincing because I couldn't point out the exact path of her self discovery and maturation to make the right decision at the end. I was lost a bit throughout the book.

What I did like was the ending, it gave me a sense of hope - FINALLY! It was the only part of the book that actually made me feel good, as it ended on a positive note. I've recently read a lot of books with really sad and depressing endings and I'm glad that this one offered something fresh and hopeful. Knowing that Emma was suddenly willing to become the mature woman she is and welcome her baby brother made me proud of her as well. And to end the book with the birth of a baby is a great happily ever after, as it is the welcoming of new life. I have actually raised the rating of this book by one star just because of the ending!

The title Heartbeat was very apt; it seemed very fitting and can refer to the dead mother's heartbeat, Emma's heartbeat and the baby's heartbeat. The heartbeat is an indication of aliveness but the book questions - if your heart is still beating does it mean you're really alive? Her mothers heart is still beating but she isn't necessarily alive anymore. Emma's heart is beating but she refuses to live, she refuses to go out and feel the sun in her face and live life and be happy - so is she considered to be alive? In the end Emma finds her heartbeat and actually wills herself to live, accepting things that cannot be changed and finally being at peace. She realizes that you can make the choice to live, both for the baby and for herself.

Have you read Heartbeat? What did you think? :)

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3 comments

  1. Oh man, I'm sorry you didn't like it :(. I can see how that kind of voice would put you off, and I know when I read the summary I was hoping for a love story. Elizabeth Scott is one of my favorite authors, so I'll probably still give it a shot, but I'm glad you warned me about what to expect :).
    Ninja Girl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah the book really was hard to read, and I felt bad right after writing this review! I hope you enjoy the book tho!

      Delete
  2. What a detailed and honest review! I liked how you managed to sieve out the bits you like and didn't like, as well as state what you'd initially expected of the book. A review of a not-so-fintastic book isn't easy to write at all!

    I've not read Heartbeat before but your heartfelt review has convinced me not to read this one. Thanks for your thoughts on it!

    Sherlyn @ Mermaid with a Book

    ReplyDelete

Hi guys! Thank you for stopping by our blog. We really appreciate it if you've taken the time to leave a comment. Though it will take some time, we will do our best to reply to each one of you. :)

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