Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2003 Michael L Printz Honor Book
Ellen loves Link and James. Her older brother and his best friend are the only company she ever wants. She knows they fight, but she makes it a policy never to take sides. She loves her brother, the math genius and track star. She is totally, madly in love with James, his face full of long eyelashes and hidden smiles. “When you grow out of it,” James teases her, “you will break my heart.”
Ellen knows she’ll never outgrow it. She’ll always love James just the way she’ll always love Link. Then someone at school asks if Link and James might be in love with each other. A simple question.
Link refuses to discuss it. James refuses to stay friends with a boy so full of secrets. Ellen’s parents want Link to keep his secrets to himself, but Ellen wants to know who her brother really is. When is curiosity a betrayal? And if James says he loves her, isn’t that just another way of saying he still loves Link?
My Heartbeat is a fast, furious story in which a quirky triangle learns to change its shape and Ellen, at least, learns the limits of what you can ever know about whom you love.
I am really ambivalent about this book. It was short, and it read quickly, and I enjoyed it while I was reading. Might have even considered it a 5 star book.
However, the more I try to write about it, the more I realize that I have some pretty big qualms about it.
The main character, Ellen, sounded more like 40 than 14.
The families are pretentious, upper class white people living in NYC, who probably have more money than they need or deserve. The parents are mostly absent, leaving their 14 year old daughter to get up to some stuff she’s really not ready for. (But it’s OK, she’s just with this family friend that we’ve known for years….in his house all alone with no parental supervision…..)
No one talks the way book characters talk or think, books take dialogue up a notch. They have to, because no one wants to read dialogue that is 100% true to life. But these teenagers? This was a little over the top for being teenagers. Both in the things they said and thought as well as what they did.
The exploration of sexuality was really thoughtful, and while I’m sure some people hated the ending…once again, I was perfectly fine with the ambiguity. As with most of the books I’ve been reading, I find myself wishing I could talk to the people that picked this for the Printz honor list. What about it made them choose THIS book over any other book written that year?
I will say this: they surely didn’t pick this one for its cover — I can’t even believe how awful the original cover was (it’s the image in the book info. Yikes). Would definitely never have picked it up. The ebook “cover” was clearly done later and is much more in line with what I would have expected and would see on a book being published now.
I guess if you can ignore the cover, and ignore the fact that the main character sounds like a middle aged woman, and not the 14 year old girl she is supposed to be, this short read does have a lot of interesting things to say about being in love, and what love with different people can look like.