July 14, 2010

In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth

In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth
Reading Level: Middle Grade
Received ARC from Around the World Tours (Tour Page)
(Author Page) (Book Page)

When a small mistake costs sixteen-year-old Eagan her life during a figure-skating competition, she leaves many things unreconciled, including her troubled relationship with her mother. From her vantage point in the afterlife, Eagan reflects back on her memories, and what she could have done differently, through her still-beating heart.
When fourteen-year-old Amelia learns she will be getting a heart transplant, her fear and guilt battle with her joy at this new chance at life. And afterwards when she starts to feel different—dreaming about figure skating, craving grape candy—her need to learn about her donor leads her to discover and explore Eagan’s life, meeting her grieving loved ones and trying to bring the closure they all need to move on.
Told in alternating viewpoints, In a Heartbeat tells the emotional and compelling story of two girls sharing one heart. -From Amazon
Eagan accidentally dies in a very unusual way while figure skating. After her death Eagan is stuck between the afterlife and the life she can't seem to leave behind. Her tale is of her past, the unsaid words, the people she loved that she'd left behind, and the events in her life that shaped her. Unable to let go of her life and the people she left behind Eagan spends most of the book trying to find her way back to those memories and people she left behind.

Amelia is dying of heart failure. She is torn between wanting to live, and knowing that living means the death of someone else. Once she does get the heart transplant she desperate needs Amelia finds herself acting and being different. Where she was once shy and introverted she is now sarcastic and out going. The changes in herself causes Amelia to want to learn about her new heart, and the person that owned it before.  Amelia's story follows her need to find the donor's family and bring some sense of closure, and to learn more about her.

Wow, I wanted to literally shake Amelia. I was so infuriated with her extreme passive-aggressive attitude at the beginning of the book. She gets the call for a new heart and while her mother is running around trying to get her to the hospital for the surgery Amelia is sitting around in her bedroom picking her toes, looking at horse pictures, and playing cards with her brother. I know that the author was trying to show that Amelia is guilt-ridden from the fact that her donor has to die to give her a heart, but I was ready to just slap her. Hurry up! Do you really want to die? I kept thinking. Move it!
"I'm so happy for you, Amelia. Mom has been praying nonstop."

I wanted to get caught up in her happiness. Rachel made it sound like I'd won the lottery. The lottery of recylced hearts, and I was a lucky winner.

"I'm not ready," I confessed. "I'm not ready for this operation. I don't want to go, Rachel." I knew I sounded like a coward and a crybaby.

"Don't cry," she said, and she hugged me again, because now I really was crying. I didn't want to cry. I wanted to be happy like her, to be excited, the good kind of excitement that comes when wonderful things are happening, like when you win a new car. Not the excitement of winning a new heart. (pg. 26)

Eagan on the other hand---seriously how do you even say this girls name---I could totally relate to. Unsure of her life, fighting with her mother, dealing with the strange concept of knowing what you want. I got her immediately. I don't know what this says about me, but Eagan was me when I was in high school. Sans the parents with a troubled marriage. When she dies she realizes that there were so many things left unsaid, most especially towards her mother. Eagan cannot leave to the great beyond until she is able to find peace in the life she left behind. This character I didn't want shake, and I think we can all understand this feeling of unfinished business. If you died today what would you leave behind? Eagan is left in limbo, and it isn't until she finds another girl that she starts to understand that she needs to move on.
She's looking straight at me. A girl. She stands out because she's not pasty gray like everything around her. Like me. She's wearing a frilly dress the same shade as the marigold bushes in Mom's garden. Her black curly hair is glittery. It reminds me of the stuff we put on our hair before competitions.

"Can you see me?" I ask.

She nods and waves like she wants to come over but needs to be invited.

Finally. Someone to talk to. My heart feels lighter. Maybe she can help me find my way back to my life.

"Hey," I say.

She doesn't need more of an invitation. She's next to me in a flash.

"I'm Eagan. What's your name?" (pg. 90)

This book had an interesting concept both in Eagan needing to find peace after her death, and in the changes that occur in Amelia once she acquires a new heart. Unfortunately, while other readers of this book on the tour had mentioned how powerful and heartbreaking it was I felt it was simply good. Interesting premise, characters that evoked a reaction with me (good or bad), but it also felt like it could have been two books. I believe simply focusing on Amelia and her story then writing a companion book for Eagan could have given Ellsworth the ability to really spotlight and flesh out these two girls. In this case the dual narrative just didn't work for me. I had a hard time separating the fantasy elements from what I think Ellsworth was really wanting to focus on, the concept of cellular memory.

Despite how I feel about this book it has received a lot of great reviews. As always I encourage you to look at the tour page, and read all the other lovely opinions there.

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