At first, this book made me furious, and from what I’ve read on Goodreads, it has made others furious too, even to the point of not finishing it. However, since Elizabeth Scott is one of my favorite authors, and how I’ve never had to put down one of her books before, I continued on with this book even after I was at the point where I wanted to scream at Emma.
So I kept reading, and I kept getting angrier, and then suddenly, everything made sense. It was finally clear why Emma was being the way she was. Why she couldn’t think of her baby brother as anything more than the thing that had caused her mother’s death. How she felt betrayed by Dan, who just decided to make choices for her mother, without ever stopping to ask what Emma wanted.
The answer? Grief.
Emma’s mother is dead. Lying in a hospital room, still breathing, with life, a child, inside of her, but she’s gone. And Emma is grieving, but so is Dan, but they’re not grieving the same way, because Lisa’s death was different for both of them. With grief, you don’t was see things the way they are, sometimes you miss things, sometimes you’re just angry, at yourself, at the people who are still alive, at the person you lost, and Emma is downright pissed. She’s hurting, and not just for her mother, but for her stepfather, Dan, who stopped listening and caring about what Emma had to say the moment her mother died.
In Heartbeat, we see Emma, and even Dan, go through the beginning stages of grief: denial and anger. Emma refuses to believe that her mother really wanted the baby, and sometimes she completely forgets that her mother is dead, if only for a moment, and she’s furious that her mother isn’t around, that the baby won’t get to see her mother, and that Dan never let her have a say her mother’s situation. We only see her starting to accept her mother’s death as the book ends.
Having gotten to the end, and seen Emma’s development throughout the book, it’s easy to forgive Emma for how she treated Dan and her baby brother. It makes me a little sad thinking that some people gave up on the book before getting a chance to see the real Emma, and how much she grows as a character.
Overall: This book will make you cry. Or maybe I’m just overemotional, but I cried like a baby about 60% in and never really stopped, although the end did leave me with a smile on my face and my heart warm thinking about how cute Emma is with Caleb and Olivia. I would definitely recommend you give this book a chance, keeping in mind that it will make you furious at first, then you’ll be sad, and if you hold out till then end, you’ll smile, knowing that Emma is finally starting to move on. To anyone who didn’t finish this book or get past being angry at Emma, I strongly suggest you continue on with it.
This is a book that will take you on an emotional roller-coaster from start to finish, but I don’t regret a single part of it. A must read for any fans of Elizabeth Scott and contemporary YA.
Read an Excerpt
“Hey,” Olivia says, and I know it’s her because I would know her voice anywhere. We’ve been friends since fifth grade, and we’ve been through period trauma, boy crap, bad hair, her parents and their ways. And now Dan and his baby.
“Hey,” I say. I wipe my eyes and look at her. “How’s the car?”
Olivia makes a face at me but also wraps an arm around my shoulders, steering me toward our lockers. Her parents gave her a fully loaded convertible when she got her license, one with a built-in music player, phone, navigation system—you name it, the car had it. Could do it, and all at the touch of a button.
Olivia sold the car—through the one newspaper left in the area, which is basically just ads—and bought a used car. It’s so old all it has is a CD player and a radio. We bought CDs at yard sales for a while, but all we could get was old music, which we both hate, and the radio is just people telling you that what they think is what you should think, so we mostly just drive around in silence.
It used to bother me sometimes but now I like it. The inside of my head is so full now that silence is…I don’t know. There’s just something about knowing Olivia is there, and that we don’t have to talk. That she gets it. Gets me and what’s going on.
Her parents were unhappy about the car, though. Really unhappy, actually, but then there was a big crisis with one of their server farms at work and by the time they surfaced for air they hadn’t slept in four days. And when they said, “Olivia, that car was a gift,” she said, “Yes, it was. A gift, meaning something freely given, for the recipient to use as she wanted to, right?”
As we hit her locker, we pass Anthony, and he says, “Ladies,” bowing in my direction. A real bow too, like it’s the nineteenth century or something.
“Ass,” Olivia says.
“A donkey is actually not as stupid as people believe. However, you are entitled to your own beliefs about asses. And me.” He looks at me. “Hello, Emma.”
I sigh. “Hi, Anthony.”
“If you ever want to talk about your grades, do know that I’m here.”
I can’t believe I ever thought the way he talked was interesting. It’s just stupid, like he’s too good to speak like a normal person. “I know, Anthony.”
“I really would like to be of assistance to you. I believe in helping everyone. I’m talking to Zara Johns later. I think she feels threatened by the fact that I’ve been asked to help her organize the next school blood drive.” Translation: he’s butted in, and Zara’s furious.
“Either that or she just doesn’t like you. Emma, let’s go,” Olivia says, slamming her locker shut, and we head for mine.
“You okay?” she says, and I nod. Anthony doesn’t bother me at all anymore, just like Mom said would happen. I look at him and feel nothing. Well, some annoyance, but then, who wouldn’t after listening to him talk?
Of course, I didn’t always think that he was annoying. I open my locker, deciding not to go down the Anthony road, and hear the guy next to me say, “No way! I mean, everyone knows what’ll happen to Caleb if he steals another car.”
Olivia and I glance at each other. If Anthony is the ass end of the smart part of the school, Caleb Harrison is the ass end of the stupid part. He’s a total druggie and three years ago, when we were freshmen, he came to school so high he couldn’t even talk. I heard that stopped last year, but then, as soon as school got out, his parents sent him off to some “tough love camp,” which is rich-people code for boot-camp rehab.
He came back seemingly off drugs but newly into stealing cars. He started by grabbing them at the mall and parking them in a different spot, but then he stole a teacher’s car.
And then he graduated to a school bus. It was empty at the time, but still, I heard that got him a couple of weeks in juvie, or would have except for his parents, who intervened. I guess now he’s taken yet another step forward and by lunchtime, I know what Caleb stole.
His father’s brand-new, limited-edition Porsche. And he didn’t just steal it. He drove it into the lake over by the park, drove right off the highway and into the water. The police found him sitting on the lake’s edge, watching the car sink. They were able to pull it out, but water apparently isn’t good for the inside of a Porsche.
“You think he’ll go to jail this time?” Olivia asks as we sit picking at our lunches. I love that we have lunch together this semester, but it’s the first lunch block, and it’s hard to face food—especially cafeteria food—at 10:20 in the morning.
“I guess it depends on his parents,” I say. “Last time they talked to the judge or whatever. They’ll probably just ship him off again. He must hate them, though.”
“Yeah. To sit by the lake and watch the car sink like that—”
“Even when my parents are sucking their lives away with all their computer crap, I’d never do anything like mess with their stuff,” she says. “How can you hate someone who raised you, who loves you so—” She breaks off.
“Dan didn’t raise me,” I say tightly. “And he doesn’t love me. Or Mom.”
Olivia nods and I think about hate. I understand what can make someone do what Caleb did, although I don’t think a bored, rich druggie really gets hate. Not real hate.