Hearts Unbroken

Review: Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

I love a good journalism novel, especially one with a scrappy teenage reporter. Hearts Unbroken did a lot of great things, and it was great to read this ownvoices Mvskoke novel.

Hearts Unbroken CoverWhen 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? Goodreads

I received an eARC of Hearts Unbroken from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Hearts Unbroken needs trigger warnings for casual racism, casual anti-indigenous racism, focused racism, focused anti-indigenous racism, use of ableist terms, historical racism, and slut shaming. There’s so much racism in this book, y’all. Please take care of yourselves while you read it.

Lou is very definitely a teenager, and it’s great that the book allows her to be. She’s selfish, she’s rude, and she’s real. She wanted a boyfriend and wasn’t afraid to say so Her actions, and work to repair the hurt she caused, set a great example for young readers without being preachy.

Speaking of preachy, I hated how realistic the local church’s hatred of some of its community members was. It’s a huge reality in a small town, one I’m very familiar with.

However, I loved how important Lou’s family was to her and their way of life. It’s refreshing to see a family that involved in their kids lives. I loved reading her protectiveness over Hughie. Their parents’ protectiveness over both of them while allowing them to make their own mistakes was wonderful.

I also loved having to take a hard look at one of my favorite films -The Wizard of Oz- and the reality that its creator being an absolute racist asshole. It’s something I didn’t know about Frank Baum, and I’m glad that I do now. Leitich did a fantastic job handling everyone learning about his racist ways, and discussing how that affected their choices to perform or not.

If Hearts Unbroken sounds like a yellow brick road you want to follow, you can pick up a copy on Amazon or Indiebound through our affiliate links!


Title: Hearts Unbroken

Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Length: 304 Pages

Release Date: October 9, 2018

Rating: ★★★★ / Four stars

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Representation: Native American Main Character (Mvskoke), Native American side characters, Arab American Love Interest, sapphic side characters, disabled side character, Native American Author,


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