Book Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Emma’s life doesn’t look anything like normal these days.  She lives with her stepfather because her mother is brain-dead but being kept alive by machines to give the baby she’s pregnant with a fighting chance.  Only Emma is sure that this isn’t what her mother would have wanted.  Emma is sure this is all her stepfather Dan’s doing, and she’s furious about it.  Then she meets bad-boy Caleb and realizes that she’s not the only angry, lost, grief-stricken person around.

Elizabeth Scott’s latest offering provides readers with a complex, heartfelt look at a controversial issue and frames it in a micro-setting.  By allowing readers to consider the issues facing Emma and her stepfather, Scott allows readers to explore their own feelings on a charged social issue.  The result is a strong piece of fiction with a convincing narrator.

It’s an intriguing story, and it gives readers a lot to think about as Emma navigates her own grief and anger over losing her mother.  For the most part, the novel is unswerving  in its authenticity.  There are a few small problems within the novel itself: Caleb’s parents are woefully one-dimensional and feel like a plot contrivance more than anything, and Emma’s turnaround happens so quickly that it lacks some of the emotional resonance it should have.  But these are minor issues.

Emma herself is a strong narrator.  She’s angry and lashes out, but it feels as though it comes from a real place.  Even as readers see things through Emma’s perspective, Scott masterfully allows readers to also see the realities of the situation Emma is blind to.  This is particularly well done.

Overall, this is a strong addition to a contemporary YA collection.  It’s a novel featuring an unusual issue and presents it in a complex, nuanced way.  Both haunting and hopeful, it’s likely to find a passionate readership.

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott. Harlequin Teen: 2014. Electronic galley accepted for review via Edelweiss.

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