In My Heartbeat, this year's Books for Youth Top of the List winner, Freymann-Weyr focused on the intensity of relationships. Intense emotions are at work here, too, but they are not directed at people. Phebe has devoted her life to ballet, and Nikolai to chess. They meet when Phebe, curious to see if she can let anything else into her life, goes to Geneva to spend the summer with her father, Clarence, who heads an international refugee agency. Clarence has taken in 16-year-old Nikolai, deserted by his bullying father after Nikolai chose another coach--who then left Nikolai in the lurch. The story, long and convoluted as it follows Phebe, Nikolai, and Clarence and his lady friend in search of the elusive coach, is only a framework for the psychological battle that rages in Phebe and Nikolai as they engage their obsessions. Freymann-Weyr's writing can be as elegant as a beautifully played chess game or a perfect pas de deux, and Phebe and Nikolai's alternating monologues are sophisticated riffs showing flashes of both the characters' brilliance and the author's capabilities. Yet, the characters essentially live inside their own heads, with emotions and needs that won't always resonate with young teens. Readers who are willing to stick with the story, however, will find something of substance and, like Phebe and Nikolai, perhaps discover options for their own lives unfolding before them. (Booklist)
Garret gives an overview of the book:
Garret Freymann-Weyr was born in New York City, and went to college at UNC Chapel Hill and NYU. Her first novel, "Pretty Girls" is (mercifully) out of print; unfortunately, so is her best Young Adult novel, "The Kings Are Already Here". She has written...