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This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews
A heartbeat is the only thing keeping Emma's mom alive. She's brain dead with no chance of recovery. She's only being kept "alive" to support the life of the infant growing within her. This was Dan, Emma's stepdad's decision, and Emma is beyond angry at him and the rest of the world for this. She just wants to talk to her mother. She knows her mom could help her sort out her emotions, but that's never going to happen. Then she notices Caleb Harrison. He's the town bad boy and the old Emma never would have cared. The new Emma notices something familiar in his eyes, a grief that no one else seems to understand. And being with Caleb makes her feel alive again, finally. She doesn't spend every second with him consumed by the longing to discuss her issues with her mom again. As they days tick by and the countdown to her dead mother's c-section continues, Emma has some hard decisions to make and some terrible realities to come to terms with. Can she make the best of it or will she continue on her downward spiral?
I don't know that I could handle Emma's situation as well as she does. She is incredibly close to her mom and her step-dad and then her mom dies and suddenly all Dan (her step-dad) cares about is his unborn child. Emma is no longer a consideration where her baby brother is concerned and her opinion is unwanted and unnecessary. And she's forced to go and see her dead mother every single day. Every day she has to look at her dead mother's corpse as she incubates a tiny life inside her. A life that Emma can't help but resent. This little thing is responsible for her mother's death. Her mother was a high risk pregnancy because of her age. Her mother only got pregnant again because Dan wanted a baby and it killed her. So how is she taking it? Not well, as you can imagine. This former straight-A, goodie two shoes suddenly doesn't care about anything. She doesn't do her school work or even pay attention in class and she spends her afternoons staring at her ceiling grieving the loss of her mother and Dan's betrayal. She flat-out ignores Dan and his attempts to fix the situation. This irritated me at first. It seems childish. But the further in you get, the more you can't help but side with her. Dan is doing his best, that is true, but sometimes you're best isn't enough, is it? The further in you get, the more you realize that he doesn't chase after her when she walks away. He doesn't beat down the door she locks him is face. He tries, but he isn't giving it his all and Emma knows that more than anyone.
I loved Caleb almost instantly. He completely understands Emma's plight and his own might be worse. His little sister died a few years back and his parents credit it as his fault. It isn't really. She got hit by a car while riding a bike and she wasn't wearing a helmet so she was gone instantly. How they believe it was his fault is beyond me. He wasn't driving the car that hit her and he certainly didn't encourage her to ride in the road with no helmet, but they act like pushed her in front of the car. They are downright cruel to him. He lashes out in the only way he knows how, drugs and crime sprees. That's how he got that bad boy reputation. He's incredibly sweet to Emma and they connect in a way that neither of them expect. He is there for her in a way that no one else is. Even Emma's best friend, who sticks by her despite the drastic personality change, doesn't quite understand what she's going through. But Caleb does and he makes a point to be there for her when she needs him.
This heartbreaking story had me from minute one. It's written in short chapters that I flew through to find out what happened next. You want to see that confrontation between Emma and Dan. When you get there, trust me, it's better and worse than you imagined. You just want things to work out for her and we know they want. I know we are all secretly thinking that this is fiction and her mom can wake up, right? But she can't. She won't. Her mom is truly dead and the baby is the only reason she is on life support. This little baby, the one Emma was so excited for, is suddenly the enemy. Emma can't see how this could possibly be what her mom would want. Dan can't see how Emma would believe her mom would want them to do anything less. And their perspectives can't seem to mesh. Emma is steadfast in her beliefs and so is Dan, but something has to give. The ending is bittersweet and fits the novel perfectly.
This is my first Elizabeth Scott novel. I can honestly say I'll be grabbing any and all of her books that I come across for cheap. This was heartbreakingly amazing. While you see all the reasons she should get over it and move on and love her baby brother, you can't help but sympathize with Emma. This poor girl just can't seem to go back to who she was before. If you are looking for a happy, snarky novel, this isn't it. What you get here is so much deeper and more raw. It's a captivating story and one I'm glad I got the chance to read!
****Thank you to Harlequin Teen for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****