Shortly after Bennett and Gottesfeld's (the Trash series) strained novel opens, a family move wrenches 16-year-old narrator Kate from her suburban friends and beloved playwriting workshops in New York City, and immerses her in Redford, a small Tennessee town. Disgusted when she learns that the Confederate flag is the emblem of the high school football team, called the Rebels, Kate joins a campaign to change the team's insignia and name, a crusade spearheaded by a black girl. Meanwhile, Kate loses her heart to Jack Redford, a handsome, popular, too-good-to-be-true senior whose family has given the town its name and a long line of military heroes. While his mother assumes Jack will follow his ancestors and enroll at the Citadel, Jack longs to be an actor and Kate, of course, encourages him to follow his dream. The simmering racial tensions reach a crescendo when the burning of a Confederate flag before a big football game triggers a m l e during which a gun goes off and-in a stretch of credibility-Kate's younger sister is the only person wounded. The tale comes to a melodramatic close with a play written by the heroine, who throughout has been trying to find an authentic voice. The issues here offer much to ponder, but the presentation, like the relationship between Kate and Jack, often seems close to soap opera. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kate Pride is a savvy, sixteen-year-old New Yorker interested in boys, cool clothes and writing plays. Playwriting is Kate's thing, and she has just been selected to participate in the Public Theater's prestigious Young Playwrights Showcase when her father's new job necessitates a move to the small town of Redford, Tennessee, where the Confederate flag still flies in the main square, everybody knows everybody, and the high school football team is named The Rebels. Kate's junior year at Redford High is personally, politically and creatively transformative and makes for a great read. With Jack Redford, namesake of the town's founding fathers, she finds true love but also the legacy of his family's expectations for him. She helps her friend Nikki launch a petition drive to change the football team's name to something less offensive to the school's African American students. She interviews racists and civil rights advocates about the town's history in an unsuccessful attempt to turn her impressions of racial tension at the high school into a brilliant play. At the season's most important football game, when violence erupts over the petition drive, Kate and her family suffer tragically and she learns that, yes, she does know enough, after all, to write well and true about the complexities of race in America. A wise, wonderful teen book, with an enjoyable romance, well-drawn family relationships, vivid portraits of a high school social scene, and a substantive theme that comes across with more heart than political correctness. 2004, Delacorte Press/Random House, Ages 13 up.
J. H. Diehl
Bennett and Gottesfeld have collaborated on fiction, plays, and other writing projects. Bennett is the author of the ALA Best Book for YAs, Life in the Fat Lane, and together they wrote the play and novel Anne Frank and Me. They have lived in the NY city area and also in Nashville, so they have solid knowledge about the setting of this novel. Kate is the narrator. She is a smart, creative 16-year-old who has been active in the theater and yearns to be a playwright. She and her family (liberal mother and father, younger sister Portia) move from New Jersey to a town named Redford, close to Nashville, Tennessee. It seems like a completely different country, and Kate feels like a foreigner. Soon, however, Kate meets Jack Redford, the son of the first family of the city, and the two of them fall in love, sharing a serious interest in the theatreJack wants to be an actor. She also meets Nikki, the daughter of one of the black ministers in town and a civil rights activist, and becomes a volunteer in the quest to demand a vote in the high school to change the school team name from The Rebels and to remove the Confederate flag as their emblem. This is where the heart divided comes in: and it is really Jack who is most divided. His ancestors were Civil War heroes who were also slave ownersthis is his heritage. He isn't proud of it, but it is his history. Many characters are introduced as Kate attempts to write a play about the divisions in the townAfrican Americans and white people from several generations with varying political viewpoints. While the racial/cultural divide is always in the background, the action of the novel encompasses familiar and popular YAthemes: new girl in school; romantic love; undue interference of a parent in a teen's life (Jeff's mother forces him to transfer to a military academy to keep him away from Kate and her liberal, Northern influences); jealousy of Jeff's former girlfriend; young Portia's awkward adjustments to middle school and first boyfriends. The tensions in the town caused by the Confederate flag/rebel controversy get worse and worse, until tragedy results. The final 80 pages of the novel is a section called "A Heart Divided; A Performance Piece," written by Kate and performed by Jeff and Nikki. (This is inspired by the work of Anna Deveare Smith, especially her performance piece, Fires in the Mirror.) Voices from the body of the novel appear in this play and we can see how Kate has mentally and emotionally processed her experience of this Southern town and its people. The performance piece is an amazingly creative work, and so is the novel as a whole. YAs from all regions of the US will understand the struggles of Kate and Jack. And all who are interested in the theater and in creative writing will especially enjoy this intelligent contribution to YA literature. KLIATT Codes: JS*Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Random House, Delacorte, 309p., Ages 12 to 18.
Kate Pride, at age ten, decides with passion her purpose in life, when her parents take her to see her first Broadway play in New York City. She wants to be a writer! Five years later, her parents enroll her in the appropriate classes for such a career, and Kate is chosen for an elite playwright club. So, when her father tells the family they are moving to Tennessee because of a job transfer, Kate feels her life is over. Although she finds their new home charming, and the townspeople extraordinarily friendly, the high school is a different story. She finds it filled with young adults of traditional views, a school divided between some white people who still want to raise the Confederate flag and some black people who view the flag as racism. Kate meets a boy named Jackson Redford. He and Kate fall in love and realize their hearts are not divided. When a family member is caught in the crossfire of a riot at a football game, Kate is able to write the play reminding the students of what they were fighting for. 2004, Delacorte Press, 306 pp., Ages young adult.
Sixteen-year-old Kate Pride and her family move from New Jersey to Redford, Tennessee, where Kate falls in love with the town royal, Jack Redford, and joins a movement against the schools' symbols: the Confederate Flag and Rebels. Kate attempts to write a play about the controversy. Jack's ex-girlfriend feigns friendship with Kate, makes sure that her classmates know Kate's subject, and then puts Kate's name on a play that mocks Redford's attitudes and heritage. Reacting to pressure from his mother and friends to dump Kate, Jack decides to run away to New York with her and study acting, his dream. They attend one last Redford football game where the emblem controversy escalates to a brawl. When a bullet hits Kate's little sister, injuring her spine, the incident unites the town. In the style of Anna Deveare Smith's Fires in the Mirror (Anchor Books, 1994), Kate writes "a performance piece," the second part of the book and also titled A Heart Divided, which illustrates the complicated and volatile relationship between symbols and feelings. As in Anne Frank and Me (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2001/VOYA April 2001), the authors challenge readers to learn about and take responsibility for history's injustices. Kate's overdramatic narrative voice in the novel, however, often makes her unappealing and unbelievable. She and the rest of the characters are somewhat flat. Sophisticated older teens might not have the patience to wait for her play. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Delacorte, 320p., Ages 12 to 18.
Gr 8 Up-When her parents decide to move from New Jersey to Tennessee, 16-year-old Kate is bitterly unhappy about giving up her friends and her spot in a prestigious playwriting workshop. Racial tensions abound in Redford and Kate learns quickly that she is a very northern girl in the middle of a very southern town. She decides to write a play about the town's act of flying the Confederate flag and the opposition that it causes. When she meets Jack Redford, a Romeo-and-Juliet-type romance begins. Kate joins the students trying to get their school's team name changed from the Rebels and the Confederate flag taken down, and Jack struggles to explain to his mother that he does not want to attend the Citadel, even though it is a family tradition. His mother also decides that Kate is not the girl for him. Readers can sense disaster on the horizon, but when it strikes Kate's innocent sister, only then does the protagonist truly understand the importance of experiencing life before writing about it. While Redford does not exist, it is based on real locations, making the setting believable. The authors have created passionate characters, an emotional climax, and an ending that suits the story, successfully weaving these elements into the voice of Kate Pride, an endearing teen who often lacks humility but believes in herself and her ideas.-Delia Fritz, Mercersburg Academy, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kate Pride's liberal-minded mother wants her to be a Woman of Purpose, and Kate longs to be like the cool, pierced girls in the magazines who "looked as if they did drugs and had sex even if they didn't." But she has an epiphany at a performance of The Crucible, falls in love with playwriting, and moves to Tennessee, where the lessons learned from The Crucible inform her way of surviving a new high school. The authors get the details of small-town Tennessee life right-meat-and-three restaurants, waitresses who call you "honey," fruit tea, heat and humidity, and statues of Confederate soldiers. It's the Confederate flag-the "racist flag," as Kate calls it-that becomes the contentious issue at her new high school, and Kate is the Yankee outsider in the midst of controversy. The novel, which includes a script of the play Kate writes about the flag issue, would make a fine one-two punch with Arthur Miller's play in a high-school classroom. (afterword) (Fiction. 12+)