We are so happy to reveal to you the cover for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Hearts Unbroken, a new contemporary YA novel about a Native teenager in her senior year, navigating love, The Wizard of Oz, and teenage journalism. Below, a few words from the author about her book. Get the full synopsis under the cover, and don’t forget to pre-order!
From Cynthia Leitich Smith:
Hearts Unbroken began as a novel-length, decades-overdue apology to my high-school boyfriend. In a fit of adolescent nerves, I’d stammered the worst possible thing with the best possible intentions. In an attempt to take our relationship to the next level, I’d damaged it instead. Today, I’d say the impact of my words was far more important than my intent. But as a fumbling teenager, it had all felt much more complicated.
Not long afterward, I learned that the author of a signature book of my childhood was absolutely reprehensible. Emotionally, I recoiled, but intellectually, I wondered if the artist and the art could, should be separated.
On one level, Hearts Unbroken is a romantic story about two teenage reporters asking whether everyone deserves a chance at the spotlight. On another, it’s an exploration of speech—journalistic, political, artistic, religious, and interpersonal—as well as speech rooted in hate. I’m a romantic, a deep thinker. The story is only loosely based on my own experience, but if anything, the questions it asks are more relevant today than when I was a teen.
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 immediately and dumps him over email. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time on 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 music 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?
Cynthia Leitich Smith is the best-selling, acclaimed author of the Tantalize series and the Feral series. She is an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and is on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. She lives in Austin, Texas.