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A Heart Divided

Review

A Heart Divided

Emerging New York teen playwright Kate suffers culture shock when her family has to transfer to Redford, Tennessee for a year. The people in the town are nice enough, but the high school team is known as the Rebels and their symbol is the Confederate Flag. Near Franklin and Nashville, TN, Redford is steeped in Civil War history with many descendants of Civil War families still in the area. They include Jackson Redford III, from the town's founding family. Jackson is handsome, thoroughly charming, and passionate about drama and plays. Kate falls for him when they meet on her first day in Redford.

Just when you think the story will follow a predictable path, it changes. Kate is a likeable character who thinks the flag issue is only black and white, literally. She quickly joins a movement to change the team name and symbol. Missing her playwright group in New York, she tries to sort out her increasingly complicated feelings on the issue through interviews with people on all sides.

As she and Jackson become more involved, Kate tries to know and understand her new world. Things come to a dramatic head, as situations involving deep resentments can. Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld end the book at an extremely suspenseful moment and then move into Kate's play, A heart divided, which continues the plot dramatically.

The meanings of symbols from history are not always what they seem and are not the same for everyone. While some should live on in museums only, the authors show that it is important to understand how people feel about them and why. This reviewer is both a Civil War re-enactor (Yankee side) and the parent of a mixed race African-American child, and feels that the issues involved with the Confederate flag are fairly and well represented in this book. A stereotyped cast of rednecks who wear sheets is not present here; multi-layered, realistic people are.

Like the well-crafted and researched ANNE FRANK AND ME, Bennett and Gottesfeld know how to invoke levels of feeling and emotion while presenting different points of view. Sadly, racism is still a relevant issue today, and the play itself could be read aloud in Readers Theater Style in classrooms for interesting discussions. But this book is also recommended for individual readers, who will enjoy the momentum and plot twists.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on March 9, 2004

A Heart Divided
by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld

  • Publication Date: March 9, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385327498
  • ISBN-13: 9780385327497