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Hearts Unbroken
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Hearts Unbroken
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New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith turns to realistic fiction with the thoughtful story of a Native teen navigating the complicated, confusing waters of high school — and...
New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith turns to realistic fiction with the thoughtful story of a Native teen navigating the complicated, confusing waters of high school — and...
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  • New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith turns to realistic fiction with the thoughtful story of a Native teen navigating the complicated, confusing waters of high school — and first love.

    When Louise Wolfe's first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It's her senior year, anyway, and she'd rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper's staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director's inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. From the newly formed Parents Against Revisionist Theater to anonymous threats, long-held prejudices are being laid bare and hostilities are spreading against teachers, parents, and students — especially the cast members at the center of the controversy, including Lou's little brother, who's playing the Tin Man. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey — but as she's learned, "dating while Native" can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey's?

About the Author-

  • In suburban Kansas City, I began as a child poet and grew into a journalist. I was the editor of my junior-high and high-school newspapers. I went on to study journalism at the University of Kansas and law at the University of Michigan Law School.

    Along the way, I had a ton of jobs. I worked as a popcorn popper at a movie theater, a cashier at a gas station, a waitress at a Mexican restaurant, a switchboard operator for a bank, a telemarketer, and a receptionist for a small law firm. I served as a reporting intern for various small-town papers and the Dallas Morning News as well as a marketing intern for a greeting-card company in Kansas City, an oil company in Oklahoma, and a nonprofit organization in Topeka. I also held summer/semester clerkships at a judge's office in Kansas, a small women's-rights firm in Michigan, and a legal aid in Hawaii.

    After graduation I moved to Chicago, where I worked briefly in the law office of the Department of Health and Human Services. But after six months (and a long talk with some ducks in Lake Michigan), I quit my day job to write full time. I eventually relocated and settled in Austin.

    I love to literally plunge into my fictional worlds.

    For Tantalize, I went house shopping for my characters, confessed my intentions to the realtors, and walked away with floor plans and photos. At the local coffee shop, I tapped hirsute folks on the shoulder and asked if I could take pictures of them to use as models for shape-shifters. I also made a point to dine at every Italian restaurant in Austin.

    For the New York Times best-selling novel Eternal, I walked every Chicago street that my characters did, trying to see the landscape anew through their eyes. I made notes about the sounds, the smells, the chill in the air. The ink in my pen froze on Navy Pier, and I ended up cutting that scene anyway.

    For the Feral trilogy, I strolled ash-strewn acres of Texas that had been ravaged by wildfires and spent hours at Austin's rescue zoo communing with lions.

    Hearts Unbroken was more of a journey into memory. I had to revisit being a teen journalist whose editorials sometimes crossed swords with suburban Kansas sensibilities. I had to reflect on what it felt like to navigate Native identity on every level, sometimes in the face of bigotry, while also seeking joy and celebrating daily life, culture, and community.

    What I love most about being a young adult author is hearing from young adult readers!
    I'm happy to answer questions about my novels and to recommend additional books by other authors.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2018
    "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)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    October 1, 2018

    Gr 9 Up-An aspiring journalist navigates friendship, first love, and racial politics in this absorbing novel. Louise Wolfe regrets dumping her first real boyfriend via email instead of face-to-face, but his offensive remarks about Native Americans crossed a line for this proud Muscogee (Creek) teen. As senior year begins, she's focused on helping her little brother, Hughie, adjust to high school life, and on earning her desired beat on the school newspaper. Competing against and falling for Joey, a new kid with a passion for photojournalism, is an added bonus. But when Hughie finds himself at the center of a divisive community conflict centered on the casting of the school production of the Wizard of Oz, Louise struggles to balance her responsibilities as a journalist with a desire to protect her family. Louise is an immediately relatable and authentic teenage voice. Bighearted, ambitious, intelligent, she also has plenty of blind spots, particularly where her relationships are concerned. While most of the secondary characters are only lightly sketched, Louise's quirky, loving family dynamic comes through strong. Realistic profanity and age-appropriate sexual situations are depicted. VERDICT Blending teen romance with complex questions of identity, equality, and censorship, this is an excellent choice for most collections.-Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Hennepin County Library, MN

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    September 15, 2018
    Grades 9-12 In a time when #ownvoices stories are rising in popularity among YA readers, this brings an insightful story to the conversation. Louise is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation whose family has recently moved to Kansas. She starts working on the school newspaper, and her little brother Hughie gets cast in the school's production of The Wizard of Oz. But a local group, Parents against Revisionist Theater (PART), does not agree with the casting of Hughie and two other students of color in the play, and this leads to some hard experiences and conversations for all involved. While the subject matter of the story is highly relevant, the writing feels disjointed, with short chapters coming across like vignettes as opposed to one cohesive story. This happens within the chapters as well, where scenes often shift abruptly without warning. A romantic subplot accompanies the more politically charged main narrative, as attraction flares between Louise and her newspaper partner?but culture clashes intrude even here. Despite its flaws, this is truly a thought-provoking and educational novel.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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