Ellen is fourteen and she and her rather
intellectual family live in New York City.
In the fall she starts attending the same private Manhattan high school
as her brother Link and his best friend James, who are both seniors, and she
starts to see their relationship in a new light. She is very close to both of them, and admires their wonderful
wordplay. She loves being around
them. So when one night she summons up
the courage to ask them if they are gay, she is appalled when her action causes
terrible friction between the friends.
She wonders whether being gay is just a matter of wanting to having sex
with people of the same gender, or whether there is something more to it. She starts reading lots of literature on
being gay, and gets a little clearer about it all. But her brother and James are themselves unsure about their own
sexuality. What's more, Link's anger
with Ellen and James pushes the two of them together, and the relationship that
Ellen always dreamt about having with James starts to look like a real
My Heartbeat is well written, with rounded characters and a
well-paced plot. Ellen is an appealing
narrator, spelling out the events with plenty of wry humor and combined with a
believable naivety. In the process, the
book spells out lots of ideas about being gay, and shows how teenagers may try
to think their way through their concerns, albeit in a rather intellectualized
way. The story will probably appeal
most to readers who can identity with
the characters, and given the rather high-brow interests of the characters and
their professional families, this may be a rather small slice of the
population. Nevertheless, My
Heartbeat is an unusually interesting book for young adults dealing with
important issues. Christy Carlson Romano
reads the unabridged audiobook well, keeping the energy level high, and she
sounds young enough to be believable as a fourteen-year-old girl.
© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main
research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.