Review Detail

 
Hearts Unbroken Featured
Young Adult Fiction

Many access-points to this novel

There are a lot of entry-points to the storylines in Cynthia Leitich Smith's Hearts Unbroken. I recommend this book especially for older teens, perhaps 9th or 10th grade and older.

The first entry-point for this book's storyline concerns tribal affiliation: Ms. Smith and the main protagonist, Louise, are both citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Throughout the story, Louise struggles with issues about whether or not to disclose when faced with casual and thoughtless racism by the people in her community.

At the story's beginning, Louise breaks up with her boyfriend after he ridicules the tribal name of his brother's fiancee. (Truth be told, I failed to see what had attracted her to this guy before, that she'd even need to break up with him.)

Sometimes it seems as though a scene "piles-on" more than one type of affront as though Ms. Smith wanted readers to be aware of every form that discrimination might take.

These scenes brought to mind other writers and books I'd read, where the author appeared to bring an ulterior objective, to inform and even persuade the reader on a subject of political weight.

Theater aficionados might appreciate the storylines around a student production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The school's drama teacher casts minority actors into three important roles and an opposition group quickly forms and demands a return to so-called "traditional" casting.

Soon the cast-members' families begin receiving threats and are even targeted by vandalism. This group also uses its clout to punish and remove school faculty who don't cave to its demands.

Louise's brother Hughie earns a leading role but the opportunity is tainted for him when he learns that Oz author L. Frank Baum advocated genocide of America's indigenous peoples.

One final entry point to this story concerns student journalism. Louise and her classmates in the school's journalism class report on unfolding developments. Because Hughie is part of the cast, Louise has to wrangle with issues of objectivity and disclosing her connection to the story.

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