Eileen's Reviews > My Heartbeat

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr
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's review
Jan 05, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: ya-romance, ya-glbqt, ya-nyc

I loved My Heartbeat. It is a well written story with interesting and believable characters. Some of the deep questions raised are about identity, belonging and the ability to truly know yourself and others.

Sexual identity is a key theme. Ellen has been good friends with Link and James. It is not until she attends highs school and a classmate suggests that Link and James might be a couple, that Ellen considers that they might be gay. There is no easy answer to this question. James has had sex with men, but not Link. Yet, he and Link have an extremely close relationship, which unravels when the question of Link’s sexual identity is discussed openly. Ellen and James become a couple and have sex. Yet, it is never clear what James’s true sexual preference is. James’s parents work long hours and spend little time with him. The McConnell’s are like his family. James loves both Link and Ellen. Is it true love or the need to belong, whether to a family or to be a part of a couple?

The question of Link’s identity is unresolved at the end of the book. His father has his own vision of what his son is: a math wiz and not gay. Link has different ideas. He dropped out of his special math class to pursue his passion for music without telling his parents. Ultimately, Link decides to attend Yale, where he will undoubtedly have the opportunity to discover his true passion, whether it is music, languages or maybe even math. This will also be a time for Link to figure out his sexual identity. No doubt, Link’s father will accept his son. James sums up the situation. “Your father means well and when you want to tell him what he is afraid to know, he might find a way to approve”.

The question of whether you can truly ever know a person is an important theme in My Heartbeat. Ellen struggles with this question throughout the novel. Can she truly know her brother, her father or James? After talking to her dad about what he is reading, Ellen wonders “Suppose he answered all my questions. I still wouldn’t discover what the quality is of his mind’s heartbeat”. Ellen concludes “Perhaps there are limits to how much you can know anyone, an unwritten social law that I am in the process of learning. Somebody should write these things down”. Ellen reads The Age of Innocence and concludes there are unwritten social codes that people must learn to navigate. Newland and the Countess never express the love they feel for each other. The same unwritten laws are still in effect today, particularly for gay people. Ellen notes “How is it that my father, whom I think I know so well, has picked the wrong-the ignorant-laws to follow?”

Ellen learns about these unwritten social laws throughout My Heartbeat and in the process learns about herself. Most importantly she learns to like who she is.

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