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Since her mother's sudden death, Emma has existed in a fog of grief, unable to let go, unable to move forward--because her mother is, in a way, still there. She's being kept alive on machines for the sake of the baby growing inside her. Estranged from her stepfather and letting go of things that no longer seem important--grades, crushes, college plans--Emma has only her best friend to remind her to breathe. Until she meets a boy with a bad reputation who sparks something in her--Caleb Harrison, whose anger and loss might just match Emma's own. 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?
"This first-person examination of a girl mourning her mother's sudden death explores the anger survivors often feel when confronting grief. Seventeen-year old Emma hates her stepfather, Dan, because he's decided to keep her pregnant, brain-dead mother alive on machines until the baby becomes viable. Although she realizes that she's allowing her rage to consume her, she continues to indulge her hatred for her stepfather, whom she formerly loved and whom she knows her mother loved, and she finds herself unable to see the baby as her brother. Emma and Dan visit her mom every day, and there, she meets Caleb, a boy who's been in trouble ever since his little sister died accidentally while under his supervision. Although her fellow high school students view Caleb as a pariah, Emma finds herself drawn to him: In Caleb, she discovers the only person who can understand her. As events progress, however, Emma will have to make her own decision about her mother's plight, and the true reason for her rage, aside from her obvious grief, emerges. Scott wraps the first-person narration in Emma's swirling emotions, but she allows readers to see through that fog to watch the reality of the events. The author does not judge Emma or Dan despite the deliberately skewed viewpoint. An intense examination of a family coping with grief, this absorbing character study easily keeps pages turning." -- Kirkus
"Seventeen-year-old Emma nearly had it all. Her grades were fantastic. She got along well with her mother, and she loved her stepdad, Dan. She was even excited about her mom's pregnancy. All that changed in the amount of time it took to toast a piece of bread. Now Emma's mom lies in a hospital, brain-dead and being kept physically alive until the baby is able to be born. Dan insists this is what his wife would want, but Emma is sure her mother would never want to be hooked up to machines. Her grades plummet and grief threatens to consume her when she suddenly finds herself drawn to bad boy, Caleb, whose parents still blame him for his little sister's death years before...the deeper themes explored in this novel offer good fodder for discussion." -- School Library Journal
"Not gonna lie, I was nervous to read this one. I've read a few reviews that peg Emma as selfish, annoying and full of flaws. Having an annoying main character will kill a story faster than any weapon ever could. The thing is...I didn't find Emma selfish or annoying in the least bit. As a matter of fact, I really loved her! She's a seventeen year old girl that is dealing with more difficulty than some of us will ever feel in an entire lifetime. Her thoughts and actions were totally justified. But that wasn't my favorite part. My favorite part, and the part that convinced me that I NEED more Elizabeth Scott in my life, is the character growth throughout the 45ish days we live Emma's life with her. That character growth comes from a couple places, most notably through a boy named Caleb. Caleb has also experienced loss of the greatest caliber and Emma believes that he can "fix" her and make her feel better, but you know what? He can't. What he can do, though, is offer up the inspiration Emma needs to start fixing herself. I can't emphasize how important this is to me. I cringe when characters are miraculously healed when love enters their life. NO. Anger is a very difficult emotion to reconcile without messing up and you'll see that in Emma's story. The end of this beautiful story brought on a flood of tears. It's the exact kind of ending I was hoping for and Scott pulled it off in the best possible way. *contented sigh* Highly recommended read to start your 2014 reads out right. One last thing: OMG THE COTTON CANDY! As you can imagine, I was in a little bit of a freak out mode when the cotton candy scenes (one in particular *eyebrow waggle*) happened. EEEEP!" -- Fictitious Delicious
"So, Heartbeat is literally and figuratively a story about the beat of a heart. As in, that being the only thing keeping a person alive. As in, Emma's mom died, but was pregnant, and her husband kept her artificially alive so he could save the baby. Was this right or wrong of him? Was he selfish to want a baby, while only keeping a woman's shell of a body alive? Was it fair to Emma, or to the person who is no longer among the living? Lots of hard core questions are discussed here and to be honest, I had a bit of a brain-racket going on as well. I mean, what do you think? The least of things to say is... "that's such a weird situation". I agree, and I'm not sure what I think is the right course of action either. Perhaps, even though the mom is dead, the baby should be given a chance to live? Who knows, really, what's right and wrong? Who could be the judge? Anyway, all of that leaves Emma and her step-father (I don't remember his name) at odds. I can't imagine why (I'm being sarcastic here, in case you didn't notice). As a result, the loving family they once had (mom and future baby included) is now broken. It's broken by a heartbeat and it's also held together by it. I don't think that Emma would've ever diligently analyzed the situation from an objective point of view, had it not been for Caleb, who had been through a lot himself. He'd lost his little sister in a car accident, for which he blames himself. Oddly enough, his parents blame him too, and at this age when he should be living his life, he is instead grieving, feeling guilt that can sink a man, and is uselessly searching for some attention from his parents. Needless to say, he got himself in lots of trouble just so he could get his mind off of his guilt. It's Caleb though, who makes the huge difference in Emma's life. He's the one who opens her eyes to see that her point of view is just one side of the story. And her step-dad's is another, which is equally right. He gave her strength, he helped her grieve, he held her when she cried. He was simply there. And the feelings that developed between them... they were incredible. It happened slow, and purposeful and it was simply enchanting. In their separate lives, with their separate situations, these two young adults finally found peace in each other. And that peace helped them see the world for what it truly was. With the beautiful and ugly and everything else in between. In conclusion, I can only say that Elizabeth Scott has managed to make Heartbeat incredibly emotional, deep and unputdownable. I'm glad I read it, because it was worth the shot. My rating is 5/5 stars" -- --YA Story Teller
"First I want to mention my shock when I went onto Goodreads to prepare for this review and saw that Heartbeat has an average of only 3.77 stars!! WHAT?! I think some people might have missed the point of the book, especially the ones stating they hated the MC because they found her to be selfish in the way she thought and acted. I'm not one to argue with another's opinion of a book but seriously?! This book is about loss, when people deal with loss they don't always react in the nicest, selfless ways. Sometimes they are a bitch. It's only natural. Maybe if these people had finished the book it all would have made sense to them. I'm just sayin..REVIEW: I don't think I have ever cried throughout a WHOLE book. I am not kidding this book has some serious feels. I feel like everyone needs to read it. It's about loss and hate, forgiveness and love. About letting go and moving on. Our MC is Emma. At the start of the book her mother is brain dead but her body is kept functioning by machines in order to support the baby growing inside her. Over time we find out how her mom died and the reasons for Emma's hate towards a stepdad (Dan) she once loved. During her journey through grief she is reintroduced to Caleb, a boy from her class who once was very popular but now is known for his drugged out ways and car stealing tendencies. Turns out Caleb and Emma have common ground when it comes to living with overwhelming sadness and guilt, through this they grow closer and become a lifeline for each other. This book touched on something really sensitive for me. Being a mother myself my biggest fear is dying while my kids are young. I think this caused me to feel really sad that Emma has to go through this whole ordeal. She feels guilty because of wasting time studying instead of being with her mom right before her death. I just wanted to tell her that her mother understood and knew Emma loves her. I really hated that she was so alone afterwards, that Dan abandoned her emotionally when she needed him the most. I loved that she had such an awesome friend in Olivia. Without question if Emma called or even just gave her a look, Olivia was there to help any way she could. This book held so much depth, how could it not, and the characters came alive from chapter one. I cried for Emma, I cried for Dan, I cried for Caleb (whose parents I would love to shake some sense into) but the best part for me was the end. Although there was so much sadness in this book it was handled beautifully and when the end came around it felt perfectly wrapped up. I don't mean things were perfect, with this type of book you can't have perfect endings, but I felt like everyone would be okay and that was good for me. When I set the book down I took a deep breath and smiled. It's a story that will stick with me for a long time." -- Head in the Clouds
"Just a warning, have tissues handy. I think I cried from start to finish with this book. That is not totally uncommon as I am a crier, and this book was about a girl dealing with the loss of her mother. That is a hard subject to tackle, and Elizabeth Scott does not disappoint. The book was powerful, and wonderful, and heartbreaking, and really a must read. I identified with Emma and all of her feelings, now that is partly due to the excellent writing but also from some past experience in my life. I felt like all of her decisions and actions were totally justified and reasonable for a teen to be feeling. I also loved that she had a friend like Olivia. I want her to be my friend! I think people might have a hard time with the way Emma behaves. But judging from my own experience with loss, her actions were dead on. And I don't think that Elizabeth Scott should have sugar coated things. She wrote the real ugly truth. When a love one dies you get angry. And mad. And you lash out. That's just what you do. I thought this book was a very real and honest look at death and grief. I will warn you to not read this in public, you will cry. It is worth a read, if you have experienced the loss a loved one or not it will tug at your heart strings and make you appreciate your loved ones even more." A Midsummer's Night Reads
"Oooh, Elizabeth Scott, you're getting so dark and twisty lately and I have to say I love it. Don't let the short page count fool you: Heartbeat really jammed a lot of feeling into a few pages. This book is one big ethical dilemma: Emma's mom is brain-dead. And pregnant. Without discussing it first, her stepdad decides to keep her on life support. Emma thinks that was the wrong choice. The beautiful thing about this book is that you might have your own personal feelings about the matter, but you can totally "get" why each character feels the way they do. It's a tough read, for sure, but it's balanced out by a sweet romance. Emma and Caleb both need to heal, and they can help each other do that. There's some friendship issues, too, but three cheers for Olivia for being a book bestie who doesn't suck. I'm a longtime escott fan (as I think of her in my head), but I have to say she's really kicked it up a notch with Miracle and now Heartbeat. What's next? Whatever it is, it's on autoread." -- Anna Reads
"It's hard to explain how I ended up loving this book so much. I honestly didn't expect all the feelings that came rushing through me as I read on. Heartbeat ripped my heart out and had me reeling. There's so much sadness that I felt like the book was screaming at me saying, "This is how it feels to hurt." What amazed me even more is how the writing conveys the story so genuinely. Heartbeat explores a teenage girl's struggle to come in terms with life, death, family, and love. Emma is a tough character to read--she's so mad and she continually pushes her stepfather away. She's lost her drive for school and she makes little effort to be social. Her world is a small one, consisting of her stepfather, her brain dead mother, and her best friend. The rest is a sea of hurt for the things that have happened and for the choices that she wasn't part of. I could've easily disliked Emma for her ire but all I felt was empathy and recognition for the internal turmoil she was in. I felt the same for Caleb, Emma’s bad-boy love interest. He is just as broken and lonely as her. I think the author did such a great job painting the grief that Emma and Caleb felt which is ultimately why their connection just felt so right. It was lovely, seeing the two get closer, seeing them find hope in each other. The extent of our human lives is such a delicate thing but this novel splendidly reflected it. Achingly raw, Heartbeat is Elizabeth Scott's most beautiful novel to date." -- Stay Bookish
I didn't really plan on reading Heartbeat the day I read it. Or should I say the night-dawn-morning I read it? I didn't even know the plot. I just thought I was due for a review and so I started reading it because I couldn't sleep. And then I ended up losing even more sleep over it because it grabbed me right from the start and demanded finishing. I think what got me by page one was the rawness in Emma's voice. She's hurt, she's mourning and most of all, she's angry. And she knows her anger might have been clouding her judgment and that she's failing school because she doesn't care anymore but that's how it goes. Extreme emotions numb you. Everything just eats you up whole and you feel a lot but you also don't know how to feel and what you feel. The narrative was intense and it never shied away from painting Emma as a jerk and it never put on brakes when talking about what Emma thinks and feels. She hates her stepfather and she can't accept her baby brother and we know all about it. And even though Emma keeps on acting like a jerk, you can't help but love her even more because she's real. She is in so much pain and all you want is to comfort her but you know you can't do anything and just read about all her thoughts and ordeals and cry with her. I sure did. So on that front, I think Elizabeth Scott has crafted such a rich character in Emma with her astounding realness and rawness. From a mile away, you could predict that Emma and Caleb will be a thing. And while I initially rolled my eyes and said "of course it would be the bad boy who will mend her", I never did that again. Because I was wrong. Because Caleb didn't mend her. He was only there for her as a soundboard, a confidante. She was still the one responsible for all her realizations and for trying to foster a relationship with her stepfather after everything. Caleb wasn't a knight-in-shining-armor and on the contrary, I think Emma ended up affecting him more than he did. Caleb was miserable and I was so sad because of his situation. His parents, just I don't even want to think about it. While I generally don't think relationships or love that stemmed from shared grief or depression would last and I usually don't approve, I didn't care at all that that's what Emma and Caleb had. Because when someone moves on and gets out of his/her grief, what happens to the one left behind? The one who can't move past the past or is moving along slower? I don't believe that love built upon misery and grief is all that strong in the long-run and maybe Emma and Caleb's isn't forever but I didn't mind at all. I was just so happy that they were there for each other at that time and that they both grew and changed and they made each other's lives a bit better just by being there for each other. In their grief, that's what they need the most. Someone who understands and someone who sees you and sees it as it is. One who doesn't sugarcoat and just gets you. For that, I was fully behind on Emma and Caleb. And geez, who wouldn't love wounded and broken Caleb? This novel made me realize I have a double standard. I love broken-bad-boys in YA but I absolutely hate them in NA. Caleb was so cute and adorable when he blushes and so chivalrous when he didn't take advantage of Emma even if she came onto him. Then when he shares about his sister Minnie, I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. Emma's even lucky to have Dan and Olivia (her best friend) but Caleb? He's all alone. Heartbeat is all about the emotional turmoil Emma was going through after her mother's death and having to see her still everyday because her stepfather decided to save the baby she was carrying. But beyond that, it focused on Emma as a character, as if she's a real person. I think the best characters are those that feel like a person and Emma is definitely one on my list. Looking back, Heartbeat could easily have been just a four-star read to me because grief isn't at all new a theme. But I think Emma rose above many and that garnered it five stars and an amazing from me." Oops! I Read A Book Again
"I was misty eyed several times. The main character Emma is strong, determined and she had a strong bond with her mom. Unfortunately, she passed away, but she's being kept alive with machines for the baby. Emma is dealing with this halted, stilted grief because even though her mom is brain dead, her body is still there, and Emma has to see her every day. Emma has a lot of anger as well, and most of it is directed at her step-dad Dan. I understand where she is coming from because he is the one to make the decision about keeping her mom alive, and Emma sees it as making the decision completely about the baby with no regard for her mother. But as a parent myself, I totally feel for Dan. That had to be a heartwrenching decision, and he has to know deep down that that is what his wife would have wanted, to give this baby a chance. But then to have Emma questioning that and distancing herself, I totally can't even imagine how that feels. So, that all said, I really admire Dan for continuing to try to bond with Emma, and care for her, all the while attempting to respect her feelings and boundaries she's put up. The relationship or deterioration was one thing that I kept my fingers crossed would be a place where Emma saw the truth of things. Luckily this was an area of the book where there was quite a bit of focus, and with it progress, and both sides admitting where they were wrong and the big c word: compromise. But above all, love and working through problems instead of just letting it simmer and one day explode under the pressure. I am glad for Emma that she has her best friend Olivia there for her. Olivia is the kind of friend that we all want, quirky but loyal to the end. She provides rides, a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on for Emma. We all know that Emma and Caleb, the bad boy mentioned in the synopsis will have chemistry and a relationship, but I like how it came to be. Their first encounters were by chance and overall antagonistic since Emma was so emotional, and it seemed that Caleb was defensive. I loved getting to know what was underneath Caleb's mask. I figured it was due to pain or loss, esp how when he saw Emma's mom he had understanding, a deeper connection than the pity or sorry for your loss of someone who just doesn't get it. I liked their slower build to romance and that they had a connection, they had a spark, definite chemistry, but they also had deep, real, hard conversations." Blkosiner's Book Reviews
The idea behind Heartbeat: My husband is obsessed with the obituary section of the paper. (I know!) One day he handed me some story to read and I ended up reading a brief notice below it, about a pregnant woman who died. I thought, what if the baby had somehow lived, and then Emma came to me. And once I found out that an unborn baby can live if the mother dies (although it's very rare), I knew I had to tell Emma's story.
High-res hardcover image here