Hearts Unbroken

When Native American Lou relocates from Texas to Kansas in January of her junior year, she quickly captures the attention of star jock Cam Ryan and pretty much makes a seamless transition into the new high school. As the months move towards Junior Prom Night and what she expects to be her first sexual experience with Cam, she finds herself becoming more conscious of his short temper, egotistical attitude, reluctance to admit fault in himself and unawareness of racist slights towards others. Deciding the next morning–after he has crashed in a drunken stupor and nothing eventful happens between them after all–Lou decides she has had enough of him and sends him an email breaking off the relationship.

Not used to being dismissed by any girl, Cam makes sure to paint himself as the wronged party among his social group, calling Lou a slut and trash-talking her every chance he gets. Lou moves on. Even though she was in competitive cheer back in Cedar Park, Texas, and loved it, she crosses her name off the tryout list at her new school to avoid having to be around Cam at sports events. Instead she signs up to work on the school newspaper, where she makes acquaintance with assorted characters. One in particular intrigues her: Joey, a guy with lots of journalistic and photographic experience who is of Lebanese-Scottish descent. As they begin to share the Features assignment, they grow closer and romantic feelings surface.

When Lou’s brother Hughie auditions for and wins the role of the Tin Man in the school production of “The Wizard of Oz,” local tensions arise not only at the school among students who resent roles going to minority students (the school is 95% white) but also throughout the community, particularly with a group called Parents Against Revisionist Theater, spearheaded by the wife of the pastor of the largest church in town. Anonymous notes are delivered to the homes of minority cast members telling them to “go home,” and someone uses red paint to splash the message on the garage door at Lou’s house. Faculty members are suspended and threatened with termination. Business owners are warned of loss of contracts. It gets really ugly.

So many social issues are examined in this book that are, unfortunately, timeless, including tolerance of diversity, economic intimidation, journalistic freedom, sexist stereotypes and slut shaming, college preparatory planning, parental divorce, making friends, managing relationships, acknowledging mistakes and accepting responsibility and so on. Offensive language is plentiful. Teenage drinking is mentioned. Sexual comments are not infrequent. A same-sex relationship is referenced. At the end of the book Lou and Joey have what is almost a perfunctory and decidedly non-romantic commingling in the back of his Jeep–what was the point of that, you may well ask? Guess the author needed to check that item off the list. Judge for yourself. I think this one needed some more editing.



Categories: Bullying, Civil Rights, Controversial YA Topics, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Immigrants, LGBTQIA, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Political Activism, Racism, Religion, Social Media

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