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HEARTS UNBROKEN by Cynthia Leitich Smith


by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-7636-8114-2
Publisher: Candlewick

Suburban,” Muscogee (Creek) girl Louise “Lou” Wolfe confronts the politics of being Native in an overwhelmingly white high school while finding first love.

Smith’s (Muscogee) (Feral Pride, 2015, etc.) novel begins “in the residual haze of [Louise’s] junior prom.” Heedless of Lou’s identity, “WASPy boyfriend” Cam insults Native people and then further invalidates the hurt Lou feels. A three-chapter interlude of summer months establishes characters and relationships. The remainder of the story occurs during the autumn of Lou’s senior year. Working for the Hive, the school newspaper, she teams up with possible love interest Joey Kairouz to uncover who’s behind Parents Against Revisionist Theater and its attempt to pull the curtain on the school’s ethnically inclusive fall production of The Wizard of Oz. Anonymous threats, vandalism, and power abuse by parents, school officials, and community members give Smith’s story potential to become an Indigenous version of The Chocolate War. Unfortunately, a chapter devoted to explaining the difference between “color-blind” and “color-conscious,” overly didactic attempts to teach readers about verbal and visual microaggressions and Native stereotypes, and parenthetical asides that read more like authorial intrusions as opposed to the inner thoughts readers would assume from the story’s first-person narration hold it back.

Endearing enough for Smith’s fans, too many subissues hinder an organic unfolding to convert new readers.

(author’s note, glossary) (Fiction. 14-18)