Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Candlewick, 2018.
High school senior Lou Wolfe breaks up with her boyfriend Cam when he’s proven one time to often that he just won’t listen to what’s important to her, things like respecting her Muscogee heritage. Then, in her journalism class, she meets transfer student Joey Kairouz, who’s determined to make “his” newspaper – meaning the school’s – the best. Lou’s little brother Hughie, a freshman, is cast as the Tin Man in the school’s production of The Wizard of Oz, alongside several talented and younger actors of color. This leads to some resistance in the conservative, mostly white Kansas town – a whole Parents Against Revisionist Theater springs up.
Lou’s determined to help her brother out and strike a blow for equality by covering the issue in the school paper – bonus, extra time with cute Joey. But all of this makes it hard to squeeze in time for her best friend, Shelby, who’s working a busy schedule on top of school to help pay bills. And just because Lou’s been treated badly by a boyfriend before – unfortunately doesn’t mean she’s gotten being a good girlfriend entirely figured out.
So, obviously, Lou has a lot of learning to do, which I loved, even as I cringed at some of her choices. Lou and her brother are trying to learn the Mvskoke language, and phrases are sprinkled throughout (defined in a glossary). There is also some hobbit love, as evidenced by the miniature Hobbiton in Lou’s family’s front yard. The piles of unconscious hatred of Natives that our culture is steeped in is fully in evidence, but it’s balanced with so much love, from both Lou’s extended family and her circle of friends. This is a great high school book in general, as well as being a excellent portrait of a contemporary Native girl.
Author Cynthia Leitich Smith, like Lou, is a Muscogee (Creek). She’s also the author of the picture book Jingle Dancer, among others.
This book had many of the same appeal factors as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, or you could pair it with The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline or #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale.