Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

20 March, 2014 Reviews 17 comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth ScottHeartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
Published by HarlequinTeen on January 28, 2014
Pages: 304
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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?

Oh, Heartbeat, why do you put me in this position? I wanted to like you, I did. I would’ve settled for feeling nothing. Or even mild dislike. This is such a weird feeling for me — wanting to have the hours I spent reading you back. But alas, that’s where I find myself.

To be fair, I don’t blame the book. It did the best with what it was given. Heartbeat is about a girl named Emma coping with her mother’s sudden death and her stepfather’s decision to keep the mother’s brain-dead body hooked up to machines so that she can incubate their unborn son for as long as possible. Sounds conflicty and controversial, right? But really, it’s just a whole lot of Emma yelling this:

And doing this:

I know it’s sad. It’s a tough topic. But why would someone decide to write an entire book about a girl who just cries and yells and cries and yells again? Literally every single chapter shows Emma crying and flinging her nonsensical logic at Dan, her stepfather. And that was all that happened for the first half of the book, before The Boy showed up. Caleb is, of course, beautiful and broken and understanding because his little sister died when he was supposed to be watching her. Caleb is an okay enough character — if you can overlook the fact that all the characters in this book are very one-note — but his relationship with his parents really ruin any scene he’s in. Caleb’s parents blame him for his sister’s death. Okay, yeah, I’ve heard that before; it’s messed up, but it happens. But Caleb’s parents apparently hate him; they can’t look at him, can’t spend time with him, can’t even live with him (he lives in the garage apartment). When they meet Emma for the first time, they implore her to leave Caleb immediately because, well, look what happened to his sister.

REALLY? Do people act this way? Do parents really insinuate that their son might let you, his new girlfriend, die on his watch because he’s done it before? Maybe I’m just over-critical as a non-parent, but this seemed extremely far-fetched to me. Aside from my problems with the plot and the characters, the writing really annoyed the crap out of me. The sentence structure is crazy repetitive. The first half of the book is written in short, choppy sentences that almost always begin with “I.” The second half suddenly explores more of a stream-of-consciousness style that just doesn’t work. The author also thinks she’s making really deep observations all the time, when really, she’s saying nothing. Like here:

“He is who he is because of who he is and nothing more and that makes him so special.”

No, it doesn’t.

“It feels strange but not false. It feels true, and that’s because it is.”

Yes, that’s what true means.

So, I’m sorry. I wanted to like this book. I had plans to like this book. Even when I realized how much Emma was going to annoy me, I thought I’d just hold out for the sweet and tender budding relationship between Emma and Caleb. Nope. Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to find any redeeming qualities in Heartbeat. Better luck next time, I guess.



Kiona is an aspiring writer and graphic designer with a penchant for smooth, creamy espresso and all things pink. She has a hate-hate relationship with her kitten, Franklin, and is sometimes perceived as "too snarky" during job interviews. Whatever that means.

17 Responses to “Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott”

  1. Fangs 4 the Fantasy (@Fangs4Fantasy)

    This is the problem about writing a book about such a big meaty issue form the POV of one of the victims without trying to get COMPLEX with their emotions – because all your left with is THE GRIEF MONOLOGUE and the RAGE MONOLOGUE repeated over and over for pages of utter dullness

    And Caleb? Convoluted angst! Ok, sad background, I can see that. I can even see parents uncomfortable around him, fighting feelings of blame and guilt that they know are unfair but can’t suppress… but the author apparently has all the nuance and subtly of a concussed rhino on meth; something we also see a lot. You can’t have hurt, not very good parents, they have to be terribad awful. You can’t have violent parents, they have to make Hannibal look warm and fluffy.
    Fangs 4 the Fantasy (@Fangs4Fantasy) recently posted…Supernatural: Season 9, Episode 16: Blade RunnersMy Profile

    • Kiona

      EXACTLY. No subtlety whatsoever, so exploration of emotions, just surface-level emotions and empty characters. Agree 110% about Caleb’s parents. Ugh.

    • Kiona

      Same. As someone who understands resentful stepparent relationships, I would’ve been willing to sympathize with Emma. But Dan seemed great and he was really trying and her arguments just…made no sense.

  2. Melody

    Wow. I wanted to read this book so badly and just like you I wanted to love it. I was even thinking it would be an amazing book. But well, after reading your review, it’s obvious it’s not what I thought it would be. I’m going to cross it out of my wishlist right away ahah !
    Melody recently posted…Shatter Me, by Tahereh MafiMy Profile

    • Kiona

      It was VERY over the top. But the daughter was around eight years old and Caleb was seventeen, I believe, so he had gone out with her for bike rides many times before. She was hit by a wayward car — freak accident that his parents have no real reason to blame him for.

  3. Shannelle C.

    I usually stay away from tragedy books because they do have such a tendency to crash and burn. It’s hard to get them right. And the fact that the synopsis mentioned a bad boy who might be the key to the girl healing herself? It didn’t sound good at all.

    But it did have such a pretty cover, and it’s disappointing that you didn’t like it. I hope you find another good book to read!
    Shannelle C. recently posted…Wishlist Wednesday: All Those Darn Cute Washi TapesMy Profile

  4. Allie @ Little Birdie

    Dear God, what the heck is it with YA books wanting parents to be SO awful. Seriously, where did all the decent adults go?! It’s like all YA authors got together and said ‘we need more angst and drama in our books. Let’s make all the parental figures absolutely irredeemable douchebags.’

    It’s SO far-fetched and awful and just makes me roll my eyes whenever I read about all these horrible parents who hate their kids or blame them for stupid shit.

    Maybe I should just adopt all YA characters and show them what hugs feel like?
    Allie @ Little Birdie recently posted…Review: Unteachable {Leah Raeder}My Profile

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