Review: In A Heartbeat by Markus Harwood-Jones
In a Heartbeat is a story about a 17-year-old transgender boy who wants to start fresh in a new place - where no one knows him. Lucien is hoping to go stealth in Vernon; shedding the unwanted attention back home in Toronto (and even donning a flannel to fit in). On his second day there, he literally falls into the arms of a boy with golden eyes, and it seemed to me that it was love at first sight.
As the story develops the reader starts to see Lucien’s insecurities, fears, and his tendency to run (literally) when things get tough. I felt that Alder’s character almost seemed too clichéd at first (aloof, cool, overly-confident), but then I realized that he may be wearing a persona to bolster his own self-confidence. When Lucien learns that Alder is also living his truth, my feelings toward him changed, as I realized that his intentions were true.
This story isn’t just about teen romance, but also gives subtle insights into the angst of many trans kids. Like when Lucien slips on the ice and, in the slow-motion seconds on his way to the pavement, worries about being treated by a paramedic that might find what is really under his clothes. A local calls him a lady, and he worries that he has “already been clocked’ (although Alder plays it off as bad eyesight). Harwood-Jones has done a great job of characterizing the real emotions and anxieties of trans teens.
It is worth mentioning that Lucien is surrounded by affirming characters throughout this novel - both his and Alder’s parents, their friends, and even the macho, flannel-wearing cousins.
This is a wonderfully hopeful story, and I can’t wait to put a copy in my junior high classroom library.
Markus Harwood-Jones is a writer, visual artist and documentary filmmaker. He has self-published the short story collections Confessions of a Teenage Transsexual Whore and Everything & All at Once; his feature film, Mosaic, tells the story of his journey across Canada and the United States to learn more about the trans community. He is author of the Lorimer Real Love teen romances, Just Julian and Romeo for Real. Markus lives in Toronto, Ontario.