Review: Heartbeat – Elizabeth Scott

Release Date: January 28th 2014
Published By: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 304
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Purchase: Click here to purchase

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: 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?

Review: Wow, so much hate. So much hurt, pain, anger and grief.

This story follows the heartbroken Emma, who recently lost her mother. But, as much as that would derail a young girls life, that is not the end of the story. Her mother is not yet dead - she is being kept alive by machines and tubes, and the sole reason she is being kept alive is for the young baby that grows within her. Emma cannot let go of her mother, she does not have the closure she needs, and all because her step-father has decided to keep her mother’s heart beating for the sake of the unborn child.

Emma cannot bear to see her mother in this situation - she is adamant that this is not what her mother wanted, and she feels that her step-father is doing this for his own selfish reasons. Emma’s despair and grief has turned into full blown rage, and all this rage is directed towards her stepfather Dan. She cannot accept his decision to keep her mother alive, and she will not accept the baby

In all honesty, Emma’s rage and hatred, while on some level may be understandable, is so palpable that at times I couldn’t stand her. And in all honesty, this is a large part of what I liked about Heartbeat. Emma was completely raw, selfish, unwilling to listen and did not once consider Dan’s reasons for doing this, nor did she even give it a second thought that her mother may have wanted to save her unborn child. I don’t normally like stories where I dislike the lead character, but this was brilliantly written - it shows that grief hurts, it is not logical, and it felt real. Although I didn’t agree with the way she saw things, I felt that the emotions were real.

It is clear that Emma and Dan where once close, and she loved him like a father, but after he decided to keep her mother alive without consulting Emma, her love for him has turned to hate. She wants to shut him out, but yet she is not willing to let him go either, and she is determined to make him understand that all of this is his fault.

And while Emma’s grief is ruling her life, her life is slipping away from her. Her grades have dropped, she is anti-social (besides hanging out with her best friend) and she basically lives every day just waiting to go visit her mother in the hospital, and to shut Dan out of her life. But she soon meets the “off the rails” rich kid Caleb. Caleb has a history of drug use and stealing cars, a far cry from Emma’s previously straight-A and focused personality. But there is something that she now sees in Caleb that she never saw before - she sees that he is struggling with a grief of his own - and more importantly, that he understands Emma’s pain.

And another thing I truly liked, was that Caleb was not a knight on a white horse who was put into the storyline to save her. Only Emma could save herself and is through their relationship that Emma starts to see that her hatred is ruining her, and everything she has left. And in fact, while it seemed that while she needs Caleb to get through her situation, it seems that it he may need her more (his story is truly heartbreaking). Emma and Caleb’s relationship is sweet, supportive and growing, but it did not take centre stage. This relationship more showed how they could be there for each other, lean on each other in a way they both thought was impossible and showed that inner-strength stems from trust and forgiveness.

Although we see all events through Emma’s eyes, and most of the story is her hating her stepfather and the world, the writing beautifully shows the emotions of those around her. I felt for Dan and everything he is going through, I felt the guilt that Caleb suffers every day, and even through all the hate, I felt Emma’s heartache.

Heartbeat is an emotion journey filled with sadness, grief, hatred, trust, support, love and forgiveness. It is deeply intense story about broken hearts and broken people, about heart beats and the decisions made between each one.



“I see what grief does, how it strips you bare, shows you all the things you don’t want to know. That loss doesn’t end, that there isn’t a moment where you are done, when you can neatly put it away and move on.”

“I should know this by now, but grief is slippery, a tangle of thorns that dig in so deep you don’t know where they stop and you start. You don’t know where you are.”

“One heartbeat, two heartbeats, three heartbeats, more, and you never know when you have used yours up. That’s the thing. You don’t know. How long will your heart beat for? How many heartbeats do you have?

“Words can lie but hugs can’t.”

What do you think?

  • Great review! I’ve seen a lot of reviewers talk about how unfair Emma’s hatred toward Dan is and therefore give the book itself poor reviews — but I think you really nail it: Grief isn’t necessarily logical. Yes, I hated how Emma treated Dan, but that’s the form that her grieving took, and I think it had a rawness and a reality to it that are hard to read, but which are very honest. I thought Heartbeat was sad and beautiful and true; I’m so glad to see you thought highly of it as well!

    • Kristy says:

      Hi Lisa. The rawness of Emma’s grief and hatred is what I loved about this book. Yes, her actions towards Dan were unfair - but that didn’t make me hate her, it showed me that is how she was dealing with her pain. As you said, Heartbeat was sad and beautiful, and very very honest. I am glad you also enjoyed it :)
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