Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

HeartbeatHeartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Page Count: 304
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Source: eArc received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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?

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From beginning to end, Heartbeat was such an emotional and heartbreaking story. Emma is dealing with a very difficult situation: her pregnant mother has been declared brain dead after an aneurysm, and her step-father, Dan, has made the decision to keep her body alive and on machines in order to save the baby.

Emma visits her mother in the hospital every day, and every day it gets harder and harder for her to keep her thoughts and feelings to herself. She is trying to mourn her mother's death, but it is impossible when she sees her mother's body every day. She feels that her mother and the baby should be allowed to die, and she is angry at Dan for making such a huge decision without asking her opinion first. Emma is hurt and filled with pain and anger, which causes her to lash out at Dan repeatedly. She is often unreasonable, and blames her step-father for everything. It was SO easy to feel sympathy for Emma, but she isn't a likable character. I don't think she's meant to be likable, and that's okay. I was still able to care about her and her situation.

Emma feels that her life is completely out of control until she lays eyes on Caleb at the hospital. She recognizes something in him, and they make a connection that they both desperately need. Emma can be herself around Caleb, and doesn't have to hide how much she is hurting. They spend time together and share their grief, knowing that they can't heal the other, but they can at least offer support and understanding.

Caleb wasn't at all what I expected, and I found myself really liking him. He has a tragic past, heavy family issues, and terrible, awful parents. I liked that he and Emma were able to make such an unlikely connection. I thought their relationship was beautiful and complex, and they were really able to help each other.

Emma's best friend, Olivia, was awesome and so understanding. She is Emma's link to life 'before', and she tried so hard to be there for Emma and support her no matter what. Emma was really lucky to have such a great friend in her life who cared about her so much.

Even though Dan was made out to be the bad guy, I tended to side with him because I could relate to him more. I could totally understand his reasons for wanting to save the baby - he knows his wife is dead and the baby will be like having a piece of his wife still with him everyday. If there is the chance that the baby can survive, he is willing to do anything to make it happen.

This subject is such a current controversial issue. I can understand the arguments for and against, and whether it is ethical to keep a pregnant woman alive to be an 'incubator'. I do believe the woman's wishes should be taken into account, along with the viability of the fetus. I thought all of these things were handled very well in Heartbeat. I highly recommend this book if you like emotional and realistic stories and don't mind shedding a tear or two.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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I am amazed that the timing of this book coincides with 2 similar real life events that have recently concluded. The first is a woman in Texas who had an aneurysm at 14 weeks pregnant. Her husband and family did not want her kept alive in an attempt to save the baby, but the hospital put her on life support against the family's wishes. The hospital even admitted that the unborn child was “distinctly abnormal” and had deformed lower extremities. The husband ended up taking the hospital to court in order to get his wife removed from life support.

The second case also recently ended. A woman in Canada was declared brain dead after an aneurysm at 22 weeks pregnant, but the husband wanted to keep her on life support to save the baby. The baby has now been born and the mother removed from machines and allowed to die. Both cases are interesting and show both sides of the argument of whether or not it is ethical to keep the mother 'alive' in order to save the fetus.

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