Title: Heart-Beat
Author: Joanne Carlton
Publisher: Hamley Books
Publication date: October 2017
Number of pages: 351   

A beautiful cover with a woman in front, who makes a heart with her hands. In the background, you can make out the shape of a big podium. Especially after reading the book, I think the cover is well-chosen; it fits the title and content perfectly.  

Joanne Carlton is the pseudonym for the Flemish author Sandra J. Paul. She writes Young Adults but also thrillers for adults. In all genres and ages there is a paranormal touch. In the thriller genre she debuted in 2015 with Azerty. In 2017 Moordspel was published. In the Young Adult (Fantasy) genre she debuted in 2015 with the Eilanden-series Het EilandDe Geest, the second part of this series was also published in 2015. The third part, De Wolf, was published in 2016. The fourth and last part, De Ziel, has also been published. Heart-Beat is a Young Adult that was published in English in 2017. The book will also be translated into Dutch, but this will not happen before 2018. In the meantime, she is working on her next book.  

How far would you go to help the one who means the most?
Sixteen-year old Sam knows life will never be easy for her. Socially awkward and armed only with a brilliant mind and feisty character, she struggles with things that other teenagers find normal. Only her best friend Jasper really gets her.
Eighteen-year old college student Jasper strives to be the perfect son to his successful parents, working himself to the ground to fulfill their wishes. Up until the point that he crashes when his heart fails.

The best friends learn the devastating news that Jasper has a tumor embedded deeply into his heart and hasn’t got much time left. Devastated, Sam convinces him to pursue his ultimate dream: to sing in front of a live audience once before he dies. The friends head to London, where Jasper signs up for the ultimate singing competition.
Knowing he has nothing left to lose, Jasper gives it all. As the competition progresses, his health deteriorates rapidly. Jasper is torn between leaving his family behind and following his heart. Sam struggles with the knowledge that they will have to say goodbye soon. In the end, both can’t help but wonder if pursuing the ultimate goal was worth the heartache after all.

Heart-Beat is a heartfelt story about the ultimate friendship and making choices. If these were the last days of your life, what would you do?   

My opinion
In Moordspel the author already used nice quotes at the start of new chapters, she did that in this book too. The story is divided into the number of days in which the story occurs and every day starts with a new, beautiful and fitting quote, like for example this one from the lyrics by Eminem:  

You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow;
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime. 

When I started reading this book I had no idea what to expect really. I normally read thrillers and Young Adult thrillers, so this was a little bit out of my comfort zone. The subject is very serious; I have lost several people to cancer in my family so this was very confronting. But my lord, what a story. Even though I had to get used to reading in English, it was no problem. There is a lot of depth in the story, multiple layers are built on top of each other and you get sucked into the moment of the story.
The story of Jasper is well worked out and the character is described so real that you crawl into his skin, and feel his pain and sorrow. De fear, insecurity and his frustration are tangible and drip from the pages. How horrible it is to hear, as an 18-year-old, that you have only a few days left?
Also, Sam is such a powerful character. She doesn’t let anything disconcert her easily and she goes after what she wants. A 16-year-old girl with so much strength and such a strong will, unbelievably smart and with so much grief already in her young life. A beautifully written, well developed character.   

What would you do, Max? If you knew you only had a couple of days left to live, how would you spend them? 

And of course there is a small paranormal side to this story. In this case it’s Sam who has predictive dreams. And they come true as well. Just when you are ready to say goodbye to Jasper, the story takes a turn. A turn I didn’t see coming and it upset me, because the story turns out to be completely different from what you thought it was.   

In this book unconditional friendship is the number one subject. Jasper and Sam don’t care about how others think of the other, although they do have issues with themselves. But they are always there for each other, ready to stand up for each other. But to be there for one another, to carry the pain and sadness that comes with goodbyes, is difficult.  

Heart-Beat is a touching story that crawls underneath your skin and into your soul and it won’t let you go. Besides the drama and the sadness, there are these beautiful characters who would do anything for one another, there is no doubt about that. Sandra had warned me to have some tissues nearby while reading this book. Well, I sure needed them the last couple of chapters.
So touching, so recognizable, so very very sad.

Plot: 5
Reading pleasure: 5
Writing style: 5
Originality: 5
Psychology: 5    

I can only give Heart-Beat 5 stars. Sandra has touched me deeply and exceeded all expectations. This book is by far the best book I have read from her.


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