cover image In a Heartbeat

In a Heartbeat

Loretta Ellsworth, . . Walker, $16.99 (216pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-2068-9

When the life of 16-year-old Eagan, an accomplished figure skater, comes to a sudden and tragic end, 14-year-old Amelia, who suffers from congestive heart failure, gains a chance for survival (“someone else had to die for me to live,” she thinks. “...when my family prayed for a new heart for me, we were praying for that to happen”). In straightforward, stirring prose that alternates between the girls' perspectives, Ellsworth (In Search of Mockingbird ) explores the intimate and mysterious connection between organ donor and recipient. While Eagan finds herself in a foggy place where she has flashbacks of her past, Amelia, recovering from the transplant, feels different, like the new heart “was sitting in a space that wasn't quite right.” Her memories and dreams seem to belong to someone else at times, making her wonder whether she's inherited more than a vital organ. The book's climax—involving a meeting between Eagan's parents and Amelia—feels manufactured and somewhat rushed, but the emotions of the two protagonists are painstakingly fine-tuned. Readers will likely come away teary eyed and inspired to become organ donors themselves. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)