Cover image for In a heartbeat
In a heartbeat
Pbk. ed.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Walker & Co., 2011.
Physical Description:
216 p. ; 21 cm.
Told in their separate voices, Eagan, who has died in a figure-skating accident, becomes a heart donor for Amelia, who then begins taking on some aspects of Eagan's personality.


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For fans of Gabrielle Zevin and Lurlene McDaniel, In a Heartbeat explores the ties of family and the weight of regret when a mistake costs Eagan her life during a figure-skating competition. Left in the afterlife, reflecting on what she could have done differently, Eagan's still-beating heart is given to Amelia who has been waiting patiently for a transplant. When their thought, feelings, and dreams begin to mysteriously overlap, Amelia knows she must search for Eagan's family and find a way to give them all the closure they need move on.

Author Notes

Loretta Ellsworth is the author of two novels for young readers, both published by Henry Holt. The Shrouding Woman ; was named to the 2003 Amelia Bloomer Project List, was a CCBC Choice, and a 2005 Rebecca Caudill Nominee. In Search of Mockingbird was nominated for Best Books for Young Adults, Teen's Top Ten, was a Midwest Bookseller's spring/summer pick, and won the 2007 Midwest Bookseller's Choice Award Honor Book for Children's Literature.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-8-Eagan is a serious figure skater and works tirelessly toward her goal of becoming a world champion. Her mother, a caricature of the pushy sports parent, invests all of her frustrated dreams in her daughter's talent, and the 16-year-old, resenting the pressure, clashes with her regularly. Then, one day, Eagan misjudges the landing on a triple lutz, hits her head against the side of the rink, and dies. Her strong, athletic heart ends up in the chest of 14-year-old Amelia, a victim of congestive heart failure. The physical and spiritual connection between the two girls, who narrate in alternating chapters, forms the basis of this sweet but somewhat melodramatic story. Things move in a strange direction as Amelia begins to feel her personality changing in response to Eagan's heart. Suddenly she is talking back to her mother and thinking about figure skating, as if Eagan's heart were somehow influencing her behavior and thoughts. Predictably, Amelia feels compelled to find out more about her donor and eventually gets in touch with Eagan's parents. The result is an unsatisfactory reconciliation between Eagan's mother and Eagan's ghost, through the medium of Amelia. It would be touching if it weren't so absurd.-Emma Burkhart, Springside School, Philadelphia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Told from alternating viewpoints, this supernatural and sentimental tale of a heart transplanted from sixteen-year-old competitive skater Eagan into shy fourteen-year-old Amelia overflows with earnest optimism. Stuck in a "nowhere land," Eagan wrestles with her early death and her regrets, while Amelia finds herself infused with new characteristics and inexplicable knowledge about her donor. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Ellsworth's dual narrative explores the large and small ways medical technology forever intertwines the lives of two strangers. When 16-year-old Eagan, a figure skater with her sights on the Olympics, dies in a fall on the ice, 14-year-old Amelia receives the heart transplant that she and her family have been desperately awaiting. Trapped in a foggy limbo, Eagan must relive the defining moments of her painfully short existence before she can cross over to the hereafter. In alternating chapters, Amelia grapples with conflicting feelings over her new heart, and inexplicable changes in her post-op personality drive her to seek out her anonymous donor's family for answers. Ellsworth's dramatic story of loss and second chances is deftly tempered by its candid teen narration and light touches of mystery and romance, making it a highly satisfying read, especially for fans of the novels of Lurlene McDaniel and the recent Cold Hands, Warm Heart (2009), by Jill Wolfson.--McKulski, Kristen Copyright 2010 Booklist