by Elizabeth Scott
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary / Romance / Tragedy
Ages: 13 and up
I received an e-copy of this book through NetGalley and Kismet Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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 book was surprisingly painful to read in the very best of ways. I cried more than once and had a lump in my throat for almost the entire novel. It's not a very long book, but every page has an emotional depth that made me feel like I was reading a bigger book. Heartbeat wasn't my usual cup of tea (too sad) but it grabbed me immediately and the more I read, the more I was pulled in.
I loved how the author slowly revealed layer after layer of Emma's feelings; her grief, her anger, her hurt. She started with the ones on the surface, then gradually dug into Emma's soul. It's probably one of the most perfectly written character arcs I have ever read, beautiful and heartbreaking. Reading it, I firmly agreed with her stepfather's decision to keep her mom on life support to give the baby a chance to live, but it was impossible not to empathize with how awful it would be to have to tell yourself every day that your mom was dead, even though her heart was still beating. Then as more layers were revealed...Ms. Scott is most definitely a master at writing emotional anguish and tearing the reader's heart in different directions.
The relationship between Emma and Caleb was soft and sweet and lovely. They come together through mutual understanding of what it is to lose someone, and with them your entire way of life. Their romance brought a little much-needed hope to the narrative, keeping the story from getting too depressing.
The secondary characters are just as well-written as the heroine, particularly Dan, Emma's stepfather, and Olivia, her best friend. Even the minor, hardly-in-the-story characters were memorable, like Olivia's parents. They gave the book a wonderful, multidimensional feel.
I highly recommend this book, but I must warn you to keep tissues at hand for the inevitable tears.
Rating System: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme). Ratings may contain spoilers.
I rate it a 3.10 for one or two mid-level words and some mild swearing.
I give it a 3.10 for teenagers making out, kissing, etc.
I rate it a 1.10 for references to fatal accidents.