Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Heartbeat [Review]

Title: My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
What They Say:
As she tries to understand the closeness between her older brother and his best friend, fourteen-year-old Ellen finds her relationship with each of them changing.  

What I Say:
I don't entirely understand why, but I have loved this book since forever. Literally. Like, if West Virginia would go ahead and legalize interspecies marriage, I would soo be making my case that books are living creatures and lobbying at Congress and moving to West Virginia and all that just so I could be eternally bonded to the teenage dream that is My Heartbeat. I re-read it every year around Christmas because I suddenly remember that it's been a year since I last read it. It's that good. The weird thing, though, is that if I took a step back and really analyzed the quality of Freymann's writing the way I do with other books, I could probably find something to criticize. But I just can't bring myself to do that. That's how much I love this book. It's pretty much the ultimate young adult New York City-in-the-winter Like story with a happy ending. Swoon. That said...

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

Plot: wow
I was so surprised that Goodreads only had a one-sentence summary for this book. It sounds so blah when you put it that way. There is, like, zero mention of James's gorgeousness. Sigh. Let me put it straight for you. Meet Ellen. She's about to be a freshman in high school. Link is Ellen's older brother. He and his best friend James are about to be seniors. Ellen is totally madly in love with James. They are all, these three, very classy kids. At school, Ellen starts to realize that the girls are all either in love with James or her brother. Ellen doesn't see the fuss, as she has had exclusive access to both boys as long as she can remember. Link has always been her brother. Ellen has always loved James. James has always loved her, in his way. But after a passing comment from a classmate ("They're like a couple, aren't they?"), she begins to wonder if it's possible that Link and James might love each other as well.

This story can be taken two ways, which is nice. When I first read it, I was happy to see James and Ellen together, because she is the main character and I love a good non-gooey Like story. But when I re-read it now, I'm just sad that he isn't with Link, which is the real point of the book: things fall apart and people are complicated and all that. Bittersweet is the word. Also, characters with daddy issues (Jace Wayland, Percy Jackson, Oscar Banks, etc) are always especially snarky, I find. And ohh boy, there are daddy issues everywhere in this one.

Characters: wow
Ellen reminds me a bit of Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Sometimes she seems to be mature beyond her years, and other times I'm surprised by how naive she is. I feel like every use of the word totally was like Freymann remembering Oh, right, Ellen's only fourteen. It's alright, Freymann, I liked her narration. Even if it's probably given me an unrealistic idea of New York City and its love magic.

I hate to call Link McConnell a drama queen, but in retrospect he kind of is. Albeit a brooding, resentful, oddly appealing, hyperintelligent one. The guy can teach himself fractions at age nine but can't think of non-spiteful ways to deal with his father. In that way, he is very much like James. Like I said, daddy issues abound. Though I seriously approve of his taste in films.

Now James is like a puppy who's been abandoned, but not so recently that he needs a hug or anything. He has this way with words (though I suppose it's really Freymann's way with words) that just kills you. Gahh, it's lovely as hell. Like, put-down-the-book-and-sigh lovely. Like, tea-on-Easter lovely. Anyway. He's a lot like Link, which is probably why they're best friends, but where Link is allergic to confrontation (much like Ellen) and therefore passive-aggressive to the max, James may be the chillest thing there ever was. He doesn't need to fret about the unwritten rules of society because they don't necessarily apply to him, being rich and beautiful and endlessly fascinating. Moral of this story: money solves everything. Nahhh, kidding. Wouldn't that be awful?

Relationships: wow
Link and James - Hmm, does it count as a relationship if it largely rooted in denial and resentment and jealousy and fear? Why yes it does. True Like is complicated, my friends.

Ellen and James - This relationship is much, much simpler by comparison. While Link and James only kept Ellen around to prevent awkward moments and crossed boundaries, at some point James realized Ellen was totally madly in love with him and well, girls have interesting qualities too, right? To be fair, Ellen and James are perfect for each other. They're both sooo classy. Seriously. Oh my god, it's insane.

Special Features: ooh
The city! Again! You can never read too many novels about the city. Fact. Or new money families who live in the city, high on cash but low on love for their kids. And everyone likes a nice little tale about sexual identity and finding your place in the world and getting your daddy to love you (haha, well sort of!). Ugh, but I hate the cover. I don't know, Keith Haring's art doesn't impress me much.

Parting Quotes:
   "I don't want to sleep with a girl," I say. "I love James."
   This is why no one in my family ever says anything. Look at the way private - totally and irrevocably private - things just slip out.
   "I mean, not really," I amend hastily. "I just think so."
   "This vacillating affection appears to run in the family," Dad says, signaling for the check.
 Sigh... I just want to lie in a bed of money and dream of tea and romance and That Hamilton Woman.

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