I’ve already gushed about Elizabeth Scott here and here, so I wasn’t sure I was going to write about Heart Beat, her most recent novel. In the end, I liked it so much that I had to share my review. As usual, Scott tackles a tough issue from the perspective of a teen stuck in the middle of it; with her blend of heartfelt angst, moral dilemmas, friendship complications and romantic interest, she manages to create, in quite a short page count, the experience of one girl in a difficult and heartbreaking situation.
Emma and her mother were alone for a long time since Emma’s father passed away when she was young. That all changed when her mother married Dan. Suddenly, they are a happy family of three with a new baby on the way. Sadly, a blood clot changes everything for Emma, when her mother collapses and is declared brain-dead. Before Emma can process what has happened, she learns that Dan has decided to keep his wife alive on life support in order to bring the baby to term. Emma feels betrayed and cannot process her grief. In this vulnerable state, Emma finds herself drawn to Caleb Harrison, whose rebellions have earned him quite a reputation at their school; something in him makes her feel like she has met a kindred spirit.
I wasn’t sure I would like Heart Beat when I picked it up. I thought it might be an “issue” novel, that would focus too much on a ripped-from-the-headlines topic and less on the characters. I was pleasantly surprised by how compelling she made both the issue and the characters. I felt Emma’s frustration and the almost overwhelming sense of unfairness that she carries around with her every day. Now that her mother is gone, she doesn’t know how to go forward, especially because she feels so completely unmoored – the home she trusted doesn’t feel safe anymore, and she feels that the man she thought of as a father has completely betrayed her.
Caleb seems an unlikely place to turn to for comfort as he has earned a reputation of being somewhat dangerous. But Emma notices Caleb at the hospital as she waits to visit her mother, and she sees an empathy in him, which reminds her that he lost his younger sister a few years ago. Caleb can understand what Emma is feeling and helps her work through her emotions, and Emma in turn helps Caleb move past some of his problems.
The book is full of heavy stuff, but it’s an easy read, in large part because the characters are compelling. If you like real-life stories, then this one is a definitely worth a try.