Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Does life go on when your heart is broken?

Since her mother’s sudden death, Emma has existed in a fog of grief, unable to let go, unable to move forward—because her mother is, in a way, still there. She’s being kept alive on machines for the sake of the baby growing inside her.

Estranged from her stepfather and letting go of things that no longer seem important—grades, crushes, college plans—Emma has only her best friend to remind her to breathe. Until she meets a boy with a bad reputation who sparks something in her—Caleb Harrison, whose anger and loss might just match Emma’s own. Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death—and maybe, for love?

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Several weeks ago I was thinking about the confronting and downright disturbing book Living Dead Girl, a book I read years ago and still remember vividly, and got to wondering what Elizabeth Scott had written since. Her books deal with topics not all young adult fiction would, and I think they could qualify as general fiction as much as YA.

And so I looked the author up, learnt about a few terrible things that’d happened to her since I last checked in, and then discovered that Heartbeat (2014) was the last book she wrote. After the poor reaction to the early review copies, Scott bought her way out of her contract with her publisher, and I thought: how could it possibly be that bad?

And so I knew I had to read it. The problem? Australians can’t buy her books on Kindle, which meant I had to order a paperback and wait weeks.

When my copy finally arrived I read it in one sitting, and – honestly? I feel anger at some of the reviewers intent on tearing the book to shreds.

I can see why Heartbeat is a difficult read. It takes place not long after Emma’s mother died suddenly, in the weeks after Emma’s stepfather decided to keep her mother’s body alive artificially in order to save the baby she was carrying without Emma even getting a say in the decision.

This is a book about anger, and it’s an anger that barely leaves Emma from the first page to the last. Her mother is gone – but not. She has to see her body, changing as death takes over, in the hospital every day, while a baby grows inside it. She has to live with a man who seems obsessed with this potential baby, and nothing else.

I can see that some readers struggled with the main character, but I also think she was realistic. I think that many teenagers – hell, many people in general – would have reacted exactly the same way Emma did.

I thought the troubles between Emma and Dan, her stepfather, were handled so well. It’s messy and they fight, and they both react to the death in totally different ways, but underneath it all – and by the end – you can see that they’re finding a way back to each other.

The love interest in the background, Caleb, has his own awful, awful issues, and I like that Scott holds back on making everything perfect for everyone by the end. Nothing of hers I’ve read has had a totally happy ending, and it’s brave and realistic.

Mostly, and apart from the book itself, I’m sad that a book that I’ll still be thinking about well into the future was the one that made an author think she needed to end her career.

Advertisements

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. Having missed her flight, she’s stuck at JFK airport and late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

As with every young adult book ever written, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight has such wildly varying reviews it was impossible to know whether I’d like it or not. Turns out I liked it more than I expected.

Much of this book’s appeal to me was that I, too, in my later teens, caught an international flight to London on my own and ended up hanging out with a young English guy on the way. Unlike this story, I severely doubt it was true love – in fact I can’t even remember the guy’s name. However, it was a setup for a story that I wanted to read.

The book is – unusually – written in third person present tense, which was a little odd at first, but once I got used to it, it worked well for the story. As the entire thing happens over only one day, the immediacy of the tone worked.

A book billed as a teen romance with an English guy, starring an American heroine, is likely to be a little clichéd, and this is something I worried about going in. However – for the most part – I found the British language and the descriptions pretty accurate, with a few exceptions (e.g. I lived in London for years, and nobody walked around saying everything was ‘grand’.) But more on that later.

The book’s heroine is travelling to London for her father’s wedding. A couple of years earlier he travelled to Oxford on a poetry fellowship, met another woman, and abandoned his wife and daughter to stay in England.

Much of the story deals with the reconciliation between father and daughter. I think the father’s character was written better than any other in the story – but this is a bit of a problem. The guy is made out to be so sympathetic, and the author is obviously determined to manipulate us into feeling sorry for him.

It worked: I loved the guy. And I don’t think that was fair, considering what he did to ruin other people’s lives. Sometimes, I think, an author has a responsibility to not characterise the “bad guy” so we love him (new adult authors, I’m looking at you!).

So: to the Britain-versus-America theme.

Firstly, let me say that I think the language barriers were handled well. I generally can’t stand those ‘isn’t it cute how Brits speak differently!’ scenes, but in this book the author managed to portray the differences without falling into that trap. I also think that, as we saw the story from the American heroine’s perspective, she could be forgiven for some of her clichéd assumptions, especially as she learnt as she went on.

On the other hand:

London isn’t the jolly little fantasy land of mid-twentieth century children’s shows. It isn’t Mary Poppins. In Paddington you’re more likely to find speciality shops with Arabic writing on the signs than a vintage little chippy on every corner, and Westminster is crowded, multicultural, bustling, and chaotic on a quiet day; not quaint.

Talking to a stranger (hell, even making eye contact with a stranger!) in London is considered a huge social no-no, but here we have dear old brolly-toting ladies pottering about the Tube, helping our heroine out.

And no, most people in the world don’t shove wedding cake in each other’s faces!

I think it’s always easier to find faults and discuss those than to talk about what you loved, and I think I’ve done this here!

I will say two things: Jennifer E. Smith surprised me with her writing, and I definitely intend to seek more of it out.

And: never rely on Goodreads reviews to pick young adult reads. They’re as drama-filled as the books!

Happy Birthday to an Icon

Today is Oksana Chusovitina’s birthday. She is now forty-three.

In a world where female athletes rarely get the attention they deserve, I want to mention this seven-time Olympic gymnastics star who also happens to be the mother of an adult son.

Chusovitina was:

* Born in the Soviet Union (Uzbekistan), and is quite possibly the last active Soviet-trained athlete in the world.

* She won her first World Championship titles for the USSR in *1991*, and Olympic gold the next year competing for the CIS.

* Surviving the breakup of the Soviet Union with her career intact (when many others lost funding and coaches), she competed for Uzbekistan at the 1996 Olympics, got married in 1997, and had a son in 1999.

* Immediately after having her child, she competed at the 2000 Olympics. And we’re talking gymnastics here: the hardest sport in the world.

* She won World silver in 2001, and then became World Champion again in 2003 – twelve years after her first win.

* Chusovitina’s son had major medical issues, and the family moved to Germany to access treatment.

* While competing for Germany, Chusovitina won Olympic silver in 2008 – sixteen years after winning her first Olympic medal.

* Since then, she has continued to compete, and compete, even though she is now forty-three and in such a physically demanding sport. She has also worked as a coach.

* She was supposed to retire after the 2012 Olympic vault final (where only the top eight gymnasts qualify – and she made it), but she turned up again at the 2016 Games.

Every gymnnastics generation has their “It Girl” the media goes crazy about when the Olympics come around, but if we’re talking about the greatest ever, my vote goes to Oksana.

R.I.P. Errol Pickford

Errol Pickford as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet © Leslie Spatt Royal Ballet Royal Opera House

As Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. X

The weekend brought news of the death of Australian-born star of Britain’s Royal Ballet, Errol Pickford. After years in London he moved back to Perth to dance with the West Australian Ballet.

He was only fifty-one at the time of his death.

Errol Pickford as The Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty © Leslie Spatt Royal Ballet Royal Opera House

As the Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty.

Pickford was known for his powerful dancing, and was famous for his performances in The Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote.

 

How much more ridiculous can it get?

The #cockygate saga has brought trademark trolls to the attention of the publishing world. The selfish practice of trademarking common words and phrases to shut out competition is not new, but it does seem to be getting more ridiculous every day.

Cocky, forever, rebellion – all words nobody should be able to “own”, and yet all words people are currently trying to take away from us (along with many others).

This weekend it came to light an application has been filed to trademark the word “big”.

Yes, really. BIG. A word that appears in titles all over the place, and has for as long as it’s been in existence (which is – oh – about 768 years).

I’m not sure what can be done about this, especially as most of the trademarks are coming out of the United States and not my own country, but clearly someone needs to put a stop to this nonsense.

Cockygate apllication to trademark the word BIG cockybot

Maybe it takes an author…

Russia has been imprisoning Ukrainians opposed to the Russian occupation since it began over four years ago, many of them in inhumane conditions, and many of them convicted after being tortured.

Oleh (often written as Oleg in the West) Sentsov, a filmmaker from Crimea opposed to the annexation of his homeland, has been behind bars for years, but has now gone on a hunger strike to have other political prisoners (not himself) freed.

It’s not achieved much so far, as the Western media does an excellent job of pretending there’s no war in Ukraine, but now superstar author Stephen King has taken up Sentsov’s cause. Along with numerous other writers and filmmakers, he has written to Putin to draw attention to the issue while the world’s focusing on the World Cup (spoiler: Putin couldn’t care less!).

You can find the letter in question HERE. Sentsov has been on his hunger strike a long time, and there are serious concerns about his survival now.

Free Ukrainian political prisoner Oleh Sentsov Oleg Sentsov from russia putin msocow

Vladimir Putin
President of Russia
23, Ulitsa Ilyinka 
Moscow
103132
Russia

Cc: Gianni Infantino, President, FIFA

Dear President Putin,

We, the undersigned artists, writers, filmmakers, and activists, join PEN America to call for the immediate and unconditional release of the wrongfully imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. In light of Sentsov’s ongoing hunger strike, our request is urgent.

Oleg Sentsov, the 2017 recipient of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, has been held prisoner by the Russian government for more than four years. In May 2014, he was detained in his native Crimea and brought to Moscow on unsubstantiated allegations of terrorism. Numerous governments and human rights organizations have identified these allegations as politically charged, groundless fabrications orchestrated in retaliation for Sentsov’s outspoken criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. On August 25, 2015, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Sentsov himself says he was tortured during his detention in an unsuccessful attempt to extract a false confession. One of the defendants, Hennadij Afanasjew, later retracted his own testimony against Sentsov, saying he was brutally tortured into saying Sentsov was part of a terrorist organization. Two appeals of the verdict have been rejected, as has a request for Sentsov to be extradited to Ukraine. Sentsov has always maintained his innocence.

On May 14, Sentsov declared an indefinite hunger strike, stating that “the one and only condition for its termination is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners that are currently present on the territory of the Russian Federation.” This brave yet dangerous decision was not taken lightly; in the northern Siberia penal colony where Sentsov is held, and with his health already weakened, it is uncertain how long he can survive. Thus, the need for action is urgent.

As Russia prepares to host the World Cup in the coming weeks, the eyes of the world will be on the country. Sentsov’s campaign will rightly draw attention to the injustice of his detention and that of dozens of other political prisoners in Russia. He has told his lawyer he is willing to die to bring global attention to his cause. In the spirit of this unifying global event, we therefore urge you to take this opportunity to make a powerful statement by releasing Oleg Sentsov immediately and unconditionally. His life depends on it.

Sincerely,

Chimamanda Adichie
Christiane Amanpour
Kwame Anthony Appiah
Margaret Atwood
Paul Auster
Rosanne Cash
Michael Chabon
Sandra Cisneros
J. M. Coetzee
Teju Cole
Michael Connelly
Molly Crabapple
Lydia Davis
Jennifer Egan
Louise Erdrich
Jonathan Franzen
Philip Gourevitch
John Green
Lev Grossman
Daniel Handler 
Mary Karr
Phil Klay
Nicole Krauss
Chang-rae Lee
Jonathan Lethem
Janet Malcolm
Colum McCann
Ian McEwan
Jay McInerney
Claire Messud
Rick Moody
Paul Muldoon
Herta Müller
Eskinder Nega
B. J. Novak
Susan Orlean
George Packer
Gregory Pardlo
Robert Pinsky
Francine Prose
Victoria Redel
Salman Rushdie
George Saunders
Alice Sebold
Gary Shteyngart
Patti Smith
Andrew Solomon
Stephen Sondheim
Alec Soth
Art Spiegelman
Patrick Stewart
Rose Styron
Colm Tóibín
Calvin Trillin
Scott Turow
Anne Tyler
Ayelet Waldman
Tobias Wolff