A Voice that Needs to be Heard | Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Friday, October 05, 2018

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 10/9/18
Pages: 304
Source: publisher (thank you!; given in exchange for honest review)
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?
When Louise’s boyfriend disrespects Native people, she breaks up with him. In doing so, she actively tries to avoid his crowd which means no cheerleading this year. Instead, she joins the school newspaper. There’s tons of features to cover throughout the year. When there’s backlash with the school musical director’s casting decision, the newspaper needs to cover every angle. Told in the voice of a Native teen, Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith gives readers a new perspective.

  • YA needs more books with Native teen voices. So, when I first heard about this diverse read, I knew I needed to give it a go. Some parts, including chapter titles and dialogue, are in the Mvskoke language. It truly immerses the reader in the story. There’s a glossary of the words in the back of the book. Not only through the language but through Louise's perspective do readers learn so much about the Muscogee culture. 
  • The Lord of the Rings references from their dogs' names to their hobbit holes in the yard warmed my fangirl heart. 
  • The Wolfe siblings were endearing characters. When they weren't in school, their family time equals that of the Song family in To All the Boys I've Loved Before. The bits of backstory of their move from Texas and learning how to speak Mvskoke from an app were sweet. However, I wish they were given a bit more depth. 
  • As much as we get inside Louise's mind, I feel like we have barely scratched the surface of her character. There was a lot of pining after a boy in Hearts Unbroken. Due to little narrative on Louise's actual feelings, it was unclear why she liked him. Most characters in the book were unlikable or so flat, readers knew very little about them. 
  • Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize series is one of my favorites. Whenever she writes a new book, there are always the highest of expectations. Despite the fantastic voice, I was disappointed with the overall story. The story itself was rather weak and didn't seem to develop very well. As much as I enjoyed the voice, the structure wasn’t as seamless as Smith’s other novels. The writing was filled with short sentences and scenes that moved quick but seemed slow. There didn’t seem to be a natural flow to the story. The lack of events in the plot didn’t help readers focus on any one thing. Hearts Unbroken was a bit all over the place in the beginning. The last half of the novel, however, really turned the book around. 
  • Somewhere near the halfway point, the story all of a sudden becomes cohesive. Hearts Unbroken found a few points to draw readers’ attention to: the school production, Louise's participation in her school newspaper, and the romance. 

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith is disappointing with its slow start and scrambled plot. Despite that, it is still a novel whose voice needs to be heard.

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