Emma is blinded by grief and loses all connection with her own life – grades, friends, thoughts of her future – because she is so focused on the life her mother has lost and the small life that grows within her. She refuses to talk with her step-father and if it wasn’t for her best friend, she would hardly notice what was happening outside of her mother’s hospital room.
Somehow, one person manages to break through to Emma – Caleb Harrison, a boy whose personal grief might just rival Emma’s own. But Caleb has a reputation as a trouble maker. Does Emma really need more trouble right now, or is Caleb just the person who can see the real Emma and help her navigate her family crisis?
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that despite the very dramatic premise for this story and the Harlequin Teen imprint (which led me to make certain assumptions), this was a book that was far more complex than a simple teen romance. While there is indeed romance (and some sexual references) and plenty of emotional family drama, there is also a depth to the story as Emma processes her grief.
Heart Beat is a coming-of-age story for central character Emma as she reassesses the significant relationships in her life in view of her mother’s death. This is particularly evident in the way Emma’s understanding of her mother grows and shifts from Emma projecting her own feelings onto her mother’s actions, to Emma assessing her mother’s decisions with a more mature outlook.
The Harlequin influence is evident in the cast of attractive characters, the romantic themes and the neatly resolved conclusion to the story, but this isn’t light-hearted romance. Heart Beat is a story with real substance that raises some very interesting and challenging ethical issues as well as examining friendship, the way we process grief, and the evolving nature of relationships between parents and their children.
Heart Beat is an engaging and thoughtful novel in many ways and I will certainly be looking for more titles by the author, Elizabeth Scott, and the Harlequin Teen imprint.
Title: Heart Beat
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Publisher: Harlequin Teen, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: March 2014
For ages: 15+
Type: Young Adult