Review: In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth

In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth
Loretta Ellsworth's website here // $11.55 from {amazon}

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers (February 2, 2010)
Hardcover: 244 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
A touching novel of last regrets and second chances in the tradition of Lurlene McDaniel and Gabrielle Zevin.

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.

Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts: In a Heartbeat has a premise that caught me right off the bat, and it definitely didn't fail to disappoint. I loved the concept of exploring the life post-heart transplant, and though the book doesn't contain any I-need-a-bucket-to-cry-in moments, it has that bittersweet element that made me go "aww." :)

First, we have Amelia, the sickly but otherwise perfect daughter. She's defiant, scared, brave, vulnerable, and realistically innocent. Then there's Eagen, who's everything Amelia's not: athletic, blissfully normal, with an adoring and hot boyfriend, and on the fast track to a good college and a shining ice skating career. But when Eagen incorrectly judges a skating jump, she hits her head and dies, donating her heart to Amelia. From there begins the story of Amelia's quest to find Eagen's family and Eagen's own acceptance of her death.

When Eagen dies, she wakes in this vast, gray "in between" state where she relives her fondest memories. Poor, poor isolated girl with so much more potential, but life's life; there's the good and the bad, and Loretta Ellsworth finds a bittersweet ending that consolidates the two. I'm usually not a big flashback fan, but it was easy to get caught up in Eagen's memories, especially since she was so obnoxiously cute. Unfortunately, Eagen is also a prime example of how you can have so much but not realize it until you lose it. I didn't want her to die, but Loretta Ellsworth did such a great job of developing the story that I felt like the ending was what Eagen needed  rather than living on. I don't believe in any form of god, but is there such a thing as fate? After reading Eagen's story, maybe.

As for Amelia... girl, she was no Eagen. I still feel like I still don't really know Amelia, and I'm not exactly sure why. I think it's partially because our relationship just didn't "click," while the other, possibly larger part is that Eagen and Amelia's personality seem extremely similar. Even pre-transplant. There were some superficial characteristics that set them apart, such as Eagen talking back to her mom and liking purple, but they both seemed defiant, strong, and vulnerable. The only real difference for me was that Eagen's personality and voice were even stronger, outshining Amelia's (and that's saying something because I have a small corner in my heart that wants to kill Eagen again for being so beautiful and talented). In fact, if the structure was the same and they had no titles, I might confuse the two girls. I don't have any hard feelings for Amelia, she just wasn't distinct.

Overall, I found Loretta Ellsworth's interpretation of a heart transplant interesting, especially because it was told from both sides, the heart recipient and donor. Though a bit similar, the two girls' voices were still enjoyable and realistic, and I loved going along with them on their quests for self-discovery. The only real negative aspect was that though I felt Eagan's story was complete, I really wanted to more about Amelia; more closure please!

Romance: A little kissing. Just a little bit of romance thrown in for that icing on the cake. It goes into Eagan's past relationship with her boyfriend, and I'm glad to say there is some stress on talking and sharing emotions rather than simply making out. Yes for intellectuals!
Cover: 3.5. Pretty, but it's neither stunning nor extremely suited to the book.
Writing: 3.5
Characters: 3.0
Plot: 4.0

Bottom Line: In a Heartbeat has an interesting premise and relatable voices that made this book enjoyable, though it didn't necessarily wow me. If you're looking for a bittersweet, touching read without needing to get the tissues, I'd definitely recommend trying out In a Heartbeat. :)