Review Blog

Jan 19 2010

Beating heart by A. M. Jenkins

cover image

Harper Teen, 2006.
(Age 14+) Recommended. An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Beating heart is an intriguing story told in everyday prose by 17 year old Evan and in verse by Cora, a young woman who lived over 100 years ago. After her divorce, Evan's mother has bought an old house and fixed it up. Evan and his little sister Libby find the move to their new home difficult, and Evan begins to have erotic dreams of a girl with fine fair hair. He has found her picture in an old box containing letters and newspaper clippings, telling of a 16 year old girl who died in her sleep. Her face haunts him every night and starts to have an effect on his real life relationship with Carrie, his long term girlfriend.
The story is a very compelling one. I was fascinated by the alternating stories of Evan and Cora. Evan is very likeable; he is concerned about the effect his parents' divorce has had on his little sister and tries to help her through the distress of the breakup and lack of interest from her father. His obsession with Cora makes him question whether he really loves Carrie or whether it is just physical.
Cora tells her story through free verse and a picture grows of a rebellious girl whose natural exuberance is being crushed by the social expectations that young ladies should be demure and softly spoken. Her illicit affair with a 17-year-old visitor and her admiration of Evan is described vividly.
Both Evan and Cora make dramatic decisions in a searing finale.
Because Cora's verse makes up a large portion of the book, this is a quick read. The beautiful young girl on the cover will be sure to appeal to girls, who will relish the ghost story and find much to think about in the exploration of different expectations that boys and girls have in relationships.
The book also won the Golden Spur Award (Texas) and was one of New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age.
Pat Pledger

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