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Written by C. K. Kelly MartinAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by C. K. Kelly Martin

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On Sale: September 27, 2011
Pages: 288 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89925-6
Published by : Random House Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Ashlyn Baptiste is falling. One moment she was nothing—no memories, no self—and then suddenly, she's plummeting through a sea of stars. Is she in a coma? She doesn't remember dying, and she has no memories of the life she left behind. All she knows is that she's trapped in a consciousness without a body and she's spending every moment watching a stranger.

Breckon Cody's on the edge. He's being ripped apart by grief so intense it literally hurts to breathe. On the surface, Breckon is trying to hold it together for his family and his girlfriend, but underneath he's barely hanging on.

Even though she didn't know him in life, Ashlyn sees Breckon's pain, and she's determined to find a way help him. As her own distressing memories emerge from the darkness, she struggles to communicate with the boy who can't see her, but whose life is suddenly intertwined with hers. Told in alternating voices of the main characters, My Beating Teenage Heart paints a devastatingly vivid picture of both the heartbreak and the promise of teenage life—a life Ashlyn would do anything to recover and Breckon seems desperate to destroy. My Beating Teenage Heart will appeal to fans of Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution, Amy Huntley's The Everafter, Nina LaCour's Hold Still, and Gayle Forman's If I Stay.

Excerpt

One

The first moment is utter darkness. The absence of thought, the absence of everything. An absence that stretches infinitely backwards and threatens to smother your sanity--if there was a you, that is. But there’s not. I am nothing and no one. I never was. I must not have been because otherwise, wouldn’t I remember?

Don’t look back. Don’t let the darkness inside you.

If I’m talking to myself, there must be a me. That in itself is a revelation. I exist. The second before was starkly empty and now I’m swimming with celestial stars. They’re as silent as stones but they shimmer, glimmer and shine. I think . . . I think I can hear them after all but not in a way I’ve heard anything before.

The sound isn’t music and it’s not whispers. I don’t have words to describe it. If teardrops, blinding sunshine and limitless knowledge combined to make a noise, it would be the one the stars hum while I float amongst them. I don’t know much, but this is something I’m certain I’m learning for the first time: the stars know things that we don’t and they always have.

And then, just as my mind begins to expand with questions

--who am I?

--where is this?

--how am I . . .

I’m falling, plummeting through the glittering darkness at a speed that would normally make your stomach drop. Instinct kicks in and makes me throw out my hands to break my fall. Only, I don’t have any--no hands and no stomach either.

The fear of falling exists in my consciousness and nowhere else. There’s nothing I can do to stop my descent. Beneath me continents of light beam their brightness as I speed towards them.

Catch me, stars. Help me.

But they’re not stars, as it turns out. They’re the lights you see from a jumbo jet when you’re coming in for a night landing. They make civilization appear minuscule and for some reason that makes me want to sob but I can’t do that either. No hands, no stomach, no tears.

What happens when I hit bottom?

I’m so close now that I can spy individual cars, streetlamps, house lights left on.

Is someone, someplace, waiting for me, leaving the light on?

Where am I supposed to be?

A pointed suburban roof reaches up to meet me, and if I have no body, surely there are no bones to shatter, no damage to fear, but my consciousness flinches anyway. It quakes and tries to yank whoever or whatever I am away from the solid mass shooting up underneath me.

In the split second it takes to realize I’ve failed, I’m already through the ceiling. Inside, falling still. Falling . . . and then not.

I don’t crash. I don’t even touch down. All I can do is stare into the pair of blinking eyes below me. They’re not even a foot away. They’re the distance you hold yourself from someone when you’re on your way to a kiss. I don’t remember my own kisses but I remember the concept the same way I remember what a roof or a jumbo jet is. I remember romance, yearning, love and hate in a way that has nothing to do with me. Maybe I’ve never been in love--or maybe it’s happened a hundred times but so very long ago that I’ve forgotten each of them. I can’t decide which idea is sadder.

The eyes open and close as I stare at them. His eyes. The white boy’s. They’re not staring back at me, but looking clean through. If I had a body I’d estimate it was hovering just above his, toe to toe and head to head with him.

It’s night and we’re cloaked in darkness, the two of us. But he’s the only one who’s truly here. Here. Wherever that is.

I’d move if I could, give him the space he doesn’t realize he’s lacking. I feel awkward, embarrassed about all I can see from here--his pores, his nose hairs, a cracking bottom lip that could use lip balm--even though he doesn’t appear to have a clue he’s being spied upon. But there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m like a camera, picking up images but not in control of angles or focal length.

So I watch the boy’s eyelashes flutter and listen to him breathe. What his lungs expel sounds like a steak knife slashing into meat. Not like an asthmatic but like someone so steeped in despair it’s a wonder he hasn’t drowned in it. How long can someone live like this? It hurts to hear. My nonexistent hands clamp themselves over my nonexistent ears.

Outwardly, my focus barely shifts. I’m still floating over him, listening to breaths of bottomless anguish. Wait . . .

I must be asleep. My fall from the stars and the hurt I hear in this boy’s breathing, they can’t be real. This vision I’m watching is nothing but a wildly vivid dream. When I wake up tomorrow, with my stomach, my hands and all my memories intact, I’ll shake my head at my panic. Then I’ll grab a pen and jot the details down before they fade to nothing. I imagine how crazy every bit of this will seem when I read it back in the morning. Stars that make a noise of wisdom. The power to read emotions through someone’s breath.

Insane. Even for a dream. Why not dream of something my eyes would want to linger on--the rapturous merging of two bodies or a purple sky hanging over a majestic blue-green waterfall? Why dream of this sad boy?

I examine him, attempt to cement the details in my mind so I can record them when I wake up, and as I’m watching I realize I can shift the camera here and there after all--not much, but a little. Yes, I can stare at him from the end of the bed if I prefer, or from a blue acoustic guitar leaning against the wall near his window. Maybe I can even . . . No, I can’t escape the room, can’t leave him behind. That’s beyond my power. He’s meant to be the star of this dream for reasons my unconscious isn’t ready to share with me. I notice that when I turn away from him to study the room, my gaze jumps inadvertently back to him before long.

And when it does this is what I see: a white boy of about sixteen or seventeen, curly brown hair framing his face. His pupils are light but in the dark I can’t determine whether they’re green, blue or even hazel. The boy’s lying in bed in a gray T-shirt, his bare arms stretched over the covers. He’s motionless. Stiller than still except for the blinking. The horrible breathing has stopped, or so it seems. When I listen more intently I realize I can still hear it if I choose. There are some things I can control within this dream, evidently, and this strange audio ability is one of them.

I watch the teenage boy close his eyes. A cell phone rings on the bedside table next to him. My eyes follow his as they dart to the phone and I wonder if the call is important in the scheme of this dream fiction. Perhaps the real action is finally getting started.


From the Hardcover edition.
C. K. Kelly Martin

About C. K. Kelly Martin

C. K. Kelly Martin - My Beating Teenage Heart

Photo © Patrick Hickey

Many of my earliest memories contain books –— my parents reading me nursery rhymes before I could read them myself, flipping through the pages of Babar and Madeline books and listening to my parents read aloud from tThe Hardy Boys series. Later I devoured Judy Blume’s children’s books, the entire Anne of Green Gables series, fantasy novels like A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and still later contemporary teen novels about various social issues and romantic relationships (offerings by Richard Peck, Norma Fox Mazer, Norma Klein, and others).
 
I began writing my own stories at the age of seven. My third- grade teacher placed them on the shelf at the back of our classroom along with the published books so my classmates could read them, but it would be a long, long time before any book by me landed on the shelves again.
 
I never really stopped writing though. In high school, I used to pass on my short stories on to my favourite teacher, Mrs. Burns, to read and makes notes on. Between high school and university, I wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure book, which was promptly rejected by the publisher in New York who already had an entire team of people writing books for the series. In university, I penned several short stories (submitting a few, without any success, to literary journals) and did a bit of writing for the university newspaper. But somehow I sensed I wasn’t ready to devote the necessary time to writing so after graduating from York University in Toronto with a Film Studies Degree in the early nineties I gave in to the pull I’d felt towards Ireland since first visiting a couple of years earlier. In Dublin, I worked in an odd assortment of places –— including a couple of bars, a lingerie shop, video store, and a division of the Irish post office –— but spent most of my time hanging out and enjoying the buzz.
 
It wasn’t until I’d gotten married (to a lovely Irish guy) and was on the verge of moving back to Canada that I began writing my very first YA novel, inspired by the fantastic writing on TV show Party of Five. Several years (and books!) later Random House bought and released I Know It’s Over. Since then I’ve written many more YA books, but I’m not really any wiser now, about where the stories come from, than when I was seven years old. When asked, sometimes I say that I feel like medium Allison Dubois, only channeling characters instead of spirits. One thing I’m certain of is that the initial inspiration to write sprang from my love of an elephant king in a three- piece suit, a spirited little French orphan girl, and a collection of nursery rhymes from The Little Mother Goose.
Praise

Praise

VOYA, October 2011:
Life is full of mysteries and unanswered questions. This novel is an excellent bibliotherapy for anyone who has recently suffered an unexplainable loss and has to keep living. Martin has written a teen angst novel filled with all the "big questions" of life. It resembles a teen version of the play Whose Life is it Anyway? by Brian Clark. The book may wake the reader up to all the unrecognized beauty life has to offer. Reviewer: Ellen Frank                




From the Hardcover edition.

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