Heartbeat – Elizabeth Scott

I am Emma, seventeen. I live with my stepfather. My mother is dead. Inside her is a baby. 

Elizabeth Scott has picked a controversial topic and handled it deftly with sensitivity and consummate skill. Emma is enraged, coldly incapacitated by fury and as such Emma is not an easy character to like, but for a moment consider, what teenager really is? So many issues are at play in Heartbeat yet it never becomes maudlin or self-indulgent in its portrayal of the right to live and die with dignity.

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.

Each day after school Emma goes to the hospital to visit her mother, after suffering a brain embolism she is on life support to try and save the life of her unborn child. Emma is so enraged by the situation she cannot even bear to speak to her stepfather convinced that if he mother had a choice that she would not be in this situation.

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Her daily routine is changed when she comes across Caleb Harrison at the hospital. He is doing community service after his myriad of criminal activities catch up with him. Caleb is the one person who seems to truly understand Emma’s feelings of impotent fury and powerlessness.

I look at him and my heart, which I was so sure was dead, burned out, beats hard and fast. Beats like I’m alive, like there is life in me, like I didn’t die when Mom did.

While reading Heartbeat I was awed and impressed at Elizabeth Scott’s storytelling prowess, her characterizations were impeccable. From Emma’s stepfather, who is so blinded by his grief and determination to save his son that he is largely unaware of the downward spiral his daughter is undergoing to the troubled teenage boy, who becomes Emma’s salvation. Often when reading N/A literature I have found that the depths of the tragedy become almost comedic particularly when the author has so unrealistically depicted these circumstances as a uniting factor between characters rather than the opposite. However in the case of Heartbeat the actions of the characters are all too believable, particularly Emma. When the story concludes the catharsis of the characters is realistic and satisfying. This is the first book I have read by Elizabeth Scott but I can guarantee you it won’t be the last.

elizabethsElizabeth Scott grew up in a town so small it didn’t even have a post office, though it did boast an impressive cattle population. She’s sold hardware and pantyhose and had a memorable three-day stint in the dot-com industry, where she learned that she really didn’t want a career burning CD’s. She lives just outside Washington, DC, with her husband, and firmly believes you can never own too many books.

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