A “Heartbeat”…in YA Realistic Fiction


Scott, Elizabeth. Heartbeat. Don Mills, Ontario: HarlequinTeen, 2014. 978-0-373-21096-1. 244 p. $16.99. Gr. 9-12.

Emma is a high school senior who is dealing with losing her mother at a young age. She has to deal with it every day because her mother is being kept alive by machines. Emma’s stepfather, Dan, decided to keep Lisa, Emma’s mom, on life support in order to give the child Lisa was carrying at the time of her death a chance at life. Emma goes to the hospital to visit her dead mother every day.  Prior to her mother’s death, Emma was on a path to be valedictorian of her class, but now she doesn’t even think about school. All she can think about is how much she hates Dan, a man she once loved. Her friend Olivia doesn’t go to the hospital because Emma doesn’t want her there. Olivia is the one person, besides Dan, who knew how it was before Emma’s mom died. As Emma’s life happens around her, she is drawn to Caleb, a “bad boy.” He understands what Emma is going through because he lost his sister when he was younger. Caleb is helpful to Emma in her time of grief, and even Olivia’s disapproval does not deter Emma.   But will Caleb really help her heal?

Realistic Fiction                 Kathryn Gilbride, North Pocono High and Middle Schools

I read this book in just two sittings! (I would have finished in one if I didn’t have to cook dinner for my family.) The entire premise intrigued me, and Elizabeth Scott did not let me down. The opening scene, Emma’s anger at Dan, her feelings for Caleb, and the final page were all poignant. I read it just for pleasure, but I’m certain that you could easily use it in a Psychology class where students don’t do much reading of fiction. The book could also be paired with a non-fiction book on Brain Injury and Brain Death.

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