Hearts Unbroken

by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Paperback, 2020




Candlewick (2020), Edition: Reprint, 304 pages


Romance. Young Adult Fiction. Young Adult Literature. HTML: 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?.… (more)


½ (42 ratings; 3.6)

User reviews

LibraryThing member seongeona
Made it through the first chapter and decided I couldn't go on. Very stilted unnatural writing, unfocused, opening scene felt like I was dropped into the middle of a story I knew nothing about, unsympathetic characters, I disliked the main protagonist who I obviously should have been supporting,
Show More
there were things that stuck out as odd such as a 17-yr-old using the phrase "ducked into a powder room" and thinking "I was mindful of how whatever was left lying around might affect (for better) the boys' reps and (for worse) the girls'" [note: the 1st person narrative is supposed to be a 17-yr-old in high school who planned to lose her virginity at the prom after-party at her boyfriend's family's 2nd home, along with several other partiers, where clothes and used condoms are strewn about the next morning].

I actually don't recall choosing this title (in the form of an uncorrected proof/ARC) from LibraryThing Early Reviewers, and was surprised when I won it, as the description of the work wouldn't have really appealed to me although I do read some YA and novels by Native American writers. So, take my review with that grain of salt.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Kristymk18
This book touches on such an important matter and underrepresented voice; however, I feel that if this had been about anything else, it would not have been published. The writing was poor: it read like a laundry list of things that happened with moments of dialogue to break it up. Nothing was
Show More
fleshed out. Within the first ten percent of the book multiple Native American stereotypes had been mentioned (by a white character making a comment about it), and Louise would be upset and then end scene. I know people go around saying racist or insensitive comments but this was just weird and seemed like the author was doing a sort of info-dump of all negative things people think about regarding Native Americans.

I would have loved to seen Smith pick one or two of the issues presented and develop a strong story and character around that instead of trying to tackle all of the racial things people say in one go.

Reading this made me realize how little I’ve read where the MC is Native American. If anyone has suggestions, let me know!
Show Less
LibraryThing member meggyweg
(I got this book free from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.)

I wish I had liked this book more than I did. I felt like it had an after-school special quality to it; there were so many issues packed into it and Louise seemed to do little except dither on about how racism affected her and her
Show More
family and her relationships with boys. When she finally found out who had been stalking and harassing her family, I was surprised that she forgave the person so easily. And the whole thing about L. Frank Baum’s racism seemed shoehorned in.

I can certainly appreciate the need for a greater Native American presence in young adult literature, but there must be better examples than this.
Show Less
LibraryThing member LivelyLady
Not sure if this would be young adult or adult due to some sexual scenes. A high school girl of Native American heritage meets head on with several issues in her conservative white school. Her brother tries out and is chosen to be in the school play which traditionally had all white actors. Her
Show More
family and other minority families become targets of a racist parents group. Her two close friends are a gay couple. The boy she likes is of Lebanese background. Makes for contemporary reading for the young adult. A perspective from a Native American writer in this mostly fictional story.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jackiewark
A timely story, no doubt, as high school senior Louise Wolfe, a proud member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, is dealing with prejudice and bias. The school is performing a much-loved, well-received play, The Wizard of Oz. When her brother gets a major role as Tin Man and two other students of color
Show More
get important roles too, a angry parent group, PART, Parents Against Revisionist Theater, protests and demands that the roles go to white students.

Louise is working on the school newspaper and as her family and others receive vile notes and experience hate crime in the form of damage to their property, she struggles with honest and relevent reporting...even though PART is trying to make light of the controversy.

Underneath all the tension, Louise's jock boyfriend, disrespects her and her heritage. She promptly drops him. Enter Joey Kairouz, a Muslim American, who has also been disrespected. Through ups and downs, they connect.

Hearts Unbroken has many layers. All those layers are colored by prejudice and hate. In the end, though, good will come through even though it may take time. There are many discussions points to the story, yet it feels very disjointed and choppy, jumping from one storyline to another quickly. However, it is worth reading and pondering over.

Thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewers, Candlewick Press, and Cynthia Leitich Smith for this ARC.
Show Less
LibraryThing member foggidawn
When Louise's younger brother is cast as the Tin Man in their high school production of The Wizard of Oz, he's one of three minority students cast in major roles, and some members of the community are not happy about it. In her position as reporter for the school newspaper, Lou has a front-row seat
Show More
to the rising tensions, and reflects on the many ways racism affects her life and the lives of those around her.

I love the premise of this book, with elements of theatre and journalism along with deep, important themes. However, I found the writing a little choppy, the dialogue a little stilted, and the characters not entirely relatable -- I never caught the emotion between the main character and her romantic partner, for instance. Perhaps because of those shortcomings, the book felt very message-y. I did learn some interesting (and unpleasant) stuff about L. Frank Baum, who was apparently racist in the extreme. We do need diverse books, and readers can learn a lot from this one -- I'm just hoping for better writing in future efforts along this line.
Show Less
LibraryThing member BrandiLynne
I received this book through a librarything giveaway. I was really, really excited to read a story with a female main character that was Native American. While I loved Louise’s character, unfortunately this one just wasn’t for me. The writing jumped around to much in the middle of something
Show More
happening, and there were too many unnecessary characters thrown in. So disappointed.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mtlkch
I received an Early Reviewers copy from LibraryThing of Hearts Unbroken. This book has a great story. In addition to normal high school drama, the main character is a Native American female, which adds the additional layer of racism to her life. It hits on many important issues - racism, bigotry,
Show More
slut-shaming, but I was disappointed with the writing. I read the first few books of this author’s Tantalize series a few years ago, and I did not like the writing in those either.
Show Less
LibraryThing member oddandbookish
I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Candlewick Press) as well as from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers. Yes, I ended up with two ARCs because I had sent a review request to the publisher (which they granted) and had entered to win the book on LibraryThing (and ended up
Show More
winning a copy).

I was so excited to read this book because I have read very few books about the Native American experience and wanted to learn more.

I loved the premise of the book and the message behind it. Native Americans and their experiences are always swept under the rug when it comes to racial inequality, so it is important to have books like this out there. I learned a lot from this. For example, L. Frank Baum’s racist attitudes towards Native Americans. I never knew that because it never gets mentioned.

I also liked how the author incorporated some Mvskoke words into the story. It was a nice touch.

However, the book’s execution was a bit lackluster. To me it just seemed like there was a lot going on. Not only was there a lot about racism but there were also a little bit of slut shaming and bullying thrown in the mix too. This was all on top of a romance story too. I wished the book would just focus on one main issue, instead of trying to throw it all in. It would have had more focus and been more impactful that way.

Overall, the book had a powerful message despite a few flaws in the execution.
Show Less


Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards (Winner — Young Adult Fiction — 2018)
American Indian Youth Literature Award (Winner — Young Adult — 2020)
Nerdy Book Award (Young Adult Literature — 2018)
Penn GSE's Best Books for Young Readers (Selection — Young Adult — 2018)


Original language


Physical description

304 p.; 8.25 inches


1536213136 / 9781536213133
Page: 1.1551 seconds