American Heart

American Heart

Book - 2018
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A powerful and thought-provoking YA debut from New York Times bestselling author Laura Moriarty.

Imagine a United States in which registries and detainment camps for Muslim-Americans are a reality.

Fifteen-year-old Sarah-Mary Williams of Hannibal, Missouri, lives in this world, and though she has strong opinions on almost everything, she isn't concerned with the internments because she doesn't know any Muslims. She assumes that everything she reads and sees in the news is true, and that these plans are better for everyone's safety.

But when she happens upon Sadaf, a Muslim fugitive determined to reach freedom in Canada, Sarah-Mary at first believes she must turn her in. But Sadaf challenges Sarah-Mary's perceptions of right and wrong, and instead Sarah-Mary decides, with growing conviction, to do all she can to help Sadaf escape.

The two set off on a desperate journey, hitchhiking through the heart of an America that is at times courageous and kind, but always full of tension and danger for anyone deemed suspicious.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins Publishers, [2018]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780062694102
Branch Call Number: YA MORIARTY
Characteristics: 402 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

LPL_RebeccaR Jun 04, 2018

Moriarty, writer of one my all-time faves, The Center of Everything, once again takes us into the mind of a teenage girl struggling to become her own person while “stuck” in the middle of the country. This social-political adventure story set slightly in the future will challenge your notions of ... Read More »

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Oct 28, 2020

Lawrence author

Aug 05, 2019

I had to keep telling myself that this was a teen book. I read it with my book group and we all enjoyed it. If you don't think this could happen in the United States just remember what the Japanese had to deal with even if they were born here. Little by little it starts and before you know what is happening people are put in jail "for their own good". Why else are little children in cages now? I had never read any books by his author but will now. It wasn't perfect, but how many books are?

RandomLibrarian Jun 22, 2019

This book is a disaster of a DNF read. Skip it and read "Internment" by Samira Ahmed instead.

The author creates this world but does nothing to explain how society could have suddenly changed so quickly – this is supposed to happen in the very near future. Nothing in this America makes any sense. Where are the sanctuary cities? The protests? The legal challenges by human rights groups? It is apparent that this whole “registration and bus ‘em” tactic is a new process, not a years-long done deal, so there would definitely be a lot of people out there pushing back against unconstitutional laws like registration based on religion. This world is not convincing; it’s lazy and poorly thought-out.

With all of the racism, Islamophobia, tired and damaging stereotypes, white savior-ing, etc, I just had to DNF this hot mess.

The author tried to defend this book with “But the female Muslim reviewer at Kirkus thought it was great!”

1) Just because one (or a handful of) Muslim(s) thought it was great doesn’t mean that all Muslims will agree.

2) Reading is a highly personal activity. We all think differently and can take away different things from what we read. That is why they say “no two people read the same book”.

The author tried to say that this book wasn't about being Muslim in this future America, but about Islamophobia and seeing through the eyes of an Islamophobe. The thing about that is that we see very little in pop culture that doesn't only cast Muslims as stereotypes - terrorists or victims of oppression - through an Islamophobic lens. Every time I get on Facebook or a news page, etc, all I see is Islamophobic points of view. Quite frankly, we don't need more of that in our fiction.

For a far better book with a similar premise (but written by an actual Muslim woman of color), read "Internment" by Samira Ahmed.

Jun 18, 2019

DNF @ 60%
2018; HarperTeen/HarperCollins Canada
(Review Not on Blog)

Ever since I read Laura Moriarty's debut book (The Center of Everything), I have enjoyed her books on the whole (I have even put one book aside for those time I can't pick a book and need a must-read author). I was excited when I saw this new title, and to be honest, I didn't even read the synopsis. I know, I know, that is totally on me but even when I saw that it was in YA (young adult) dystopian novel I was still interested! I don't usually gravitate towards dystopian novels, but Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games have made me at least not say no to trying it. I did read a few Goodreads review on the book, and most were not, ummm...ahem, favourable. I decided to go ahead and still read this book as it was by an author I enjoy and I did request to review it. I think Moriarty had good intentions and her writing is great, but I agree with some of Goodreads community. I really wanted to at least finish it, but gave up at 60% and just read the end, especially when I was skimming sections. So much negativity has been given to this novel, so I don't want to add more to it. I will say that what didn't work for me was that Moriarty took on a big topic but didn't explore it as she could have. I also didn't know what the message was or if there was anything to be learned from this. I was overall, more confused than hating it. Sometimes good writing cannot help a book.

***I received an eARC from EDELWEISS***

Tigard_HollyCP Feb 15, 2019

Addendum: After reading Tauriel’s review and the goodreads review they recommended, I have to second guess my initial impression of the book as a person with white privilege. There were a lot of things I did not consider when I wrote my original review, and I would need to reread it again in order to challenge my original thinking. I will definitely be more hesitant to recommend this book in the future.

My original review: Sometime in the not-too-distant future, not only is there a Muslim registry in America, but now all Muslims are being rounded up and forced into detainment camps, regardless of citizenship status. Small-town Missouri girl Sarah-Mary Williams isn’t too worried about it. After all, there must be a good reason for it. She reasons that lots of Muslims are terrorists anyway. Maybe not all, but better safe than sorry, right? It’s not like she’s ever even seen a Muslim, other than the ones whose faces are plastered all over Wanted billboards with rewards for their capture.

Besides, she has bigger things to worry about. Like wondering whether her self-absorbed mom will ever return for her and her little brother, Caleb, or if they’ll be stuck living with their ultra-religious aunt for the rest of their lives. Like attending a strict Baptist school where even as a teenager, she faces spanking if she gets out of line even a little bit. Like figuring out how she can see her best friend with whom she’s been forbidden any contact.

When she and Caleb encounter a Muslim woman, one whose face she has seen on a billboard, Caleb extracts a promise from Sarah-Mary that she will help the woman escape authorities. Despite her misgivings, Sarah-Mary prides herself in her steadfast penchant to keep promises.

As the two embark on a harrowing journey, Sarah-Mary begins to challenge her lifelong assumptions about Muslims, family, and what it means to be an American.

LPL_RebeccaR Jun 04, 2018

Moriarty, writer of one my all-time faves, The Center of Everything, once again takes us into the mind of a teenage girl struggling to become her own person while “stuck” in the middle of the country. This social-political adventure story set slightly in the future will challenge your notions of the way race, religion, gender, ethnicity, citizenship status, and class impact the lives of friends and neighbors in our own community.

Mar 19, 2018

I found this book absolutely repulsive. The only "world-building" in the entire novel is the blurb on the flap: "imagine a United States where registries and detainment camps for Muslim-Americans are a reality." There is only a small, vague reference to 9/11, but absolutely NOTHING to explain the virulent anti-Islam statements and actions in the book. I can understand alternate histories... usually. When there is no explanation for anything, with a purposefully ignorant narrator (Sarah-Mary, named with the "most American" names possible because she has dark hair and dark eyes (?!?!) ) I found this book a horrible read.

You may ask, why are you hating on this book? I will tell you why. There is much alternate World War II history, but you didn't see authors DURING the 1940s writing about alternate concentration camp histories. Yet Laura Moriarty (the author) decides, WHILE we are fighting RADICAL Islam, WHILE we are dealing with a RESURGENCE OF ANTI-ISLAM IN AMERICA, TODAY (!!) , that she is going to write this book. I do not think this book is appropriate to the time period in which we live.

The level of white saviorism is intensely high, and not even hidden. What is "white saviorism" you may ask? It's this young, 17 year old white girl trying to save a Muslim woman (married, with a child,) yet doesn't even show her the respect of calling her by her own name even without a need to: Chloe this, Chloe that, never her real name: Sadaf. I find this repulsive. Why is Sarah-Mary not showing Sadaf the courtesy of of calling her by her own name whenever it is not threatening?

Just because of Sarah-Mary's attitude (she keeps trying to do everything herself; won't call Sadaf by her name; doesn't even watch the news with videos of Muslims being driven on buses to Nevada (although her extremely compassionate brother does); and a huge level of ignorance concerning EVERYTHING about Islam in general (she "jokes" to bring Sadaf a bacon sandwhich up from the hotel lobby) ... )

PLOT: something that is basically Sarah-Mary and Sadaf driving up to Canda. Also includes a distracting scene with Sarah-Mary's flighty mother, who just tries to marry wealthy men.

CHARACTERS: I didn't have a favorite character, and Sarah-Mary's development looks like so: doesn't care at all about the current situation --> persuaded by her younger, compassionate brother to help Sadaf --> decides, "hey, Muslim's aren't so bad," only because she is not virulently anti-Islam because she doesn't pay attention --> etc. She gets upset with Sadaf, who, (because they are mostly hitch-hiking) looking at the statistics of things, doesn't want to ride with African American drivers (they DO get pulled over more often :( ... ). Sarah-Mary, in an act of true white-saviorism, exclaims how horrible it is for Sadaf to be so "racist!" Uh... HELLO, EARTH TO SARAH-MARY: TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR ALTERNATE-HISTORY-ANTI-ISLAM-AMERICA.

ACCURACY: I have to admit, because ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the history of this anti-Islam is unexplained for LITERALLY THE ENTIRE BOOK, I find it extremely INACCURATE. If you don't give me a reason WHY things are happening, we have a problem.

RECOMMENDATION: I would advise my friends not to read this. This book was written at the wrong time, and if you think it doesn't matter it was written now, ask Muslims about their opinion on this book. Goodreads has quite a discussion about it right now. Here is the link to Adiba Jaigirdar's review of the book:

This book could have been written to express the Golden Rule and such, but it was not, and I have never disliked a book this much before.

JCLBeckyC Feb 08, 2018

American Heart is an homage to one of my favorite novels: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Huck Finn ends up on banned and frequently challenged lists all the time. I find that most of my favorite books are on these lists. Good literature is often challenging to read. Depressing topics. Nuanced writing that doesn’t spell things out or dumb things down. Not black and white, but grey. Not right or wrong, but neither. Ambiguous. It takes an effort by the reader to read good literature. It’s not there to simply entertain, but to make us think. The best literature is both entertaining and thought provoking. American Heart is both.

Jan 26, 2018

A big thank you to Harperteen and Edelweiss for an ARC of this book. Beginning this book was a bit intimidating when I realized the controversy that was brewing. What I realized was that my downloading of the ARC was a promise to the publisher to read the book and give an honest review.

So here it is:

Sarah-Mary is sixteen and has a brother (Caleb) with a very soft heart. When Caleb discovers Sadaf in trouble, he begs Sarah-Mary to help her and their journey from Hannibal, MO to Canada begins. Comparisons have been made to Huckleberry Finn. Just as Mark Twain did, Laura Moriarty uses this narrative to put a mirror up for our society. As the saying goes, "If the shoe fits, wear it." Some have lamented the trope of the white rescuer. Indeed, Sarah-Mary is white and she is trying to do the right thing and help someone in need. Can't we all learn from her example no matter what her skin color??

For me as a Kansas City resident, the author is local and the setting is very familiar as well. This is another aspect that attracted me to this novel. I have driven through many of the areas in the book with the exception of those in northern Minnesota.

Finally, I want to address the racial/religious conflicts depicted in this book. What has happened to treating our fellow man according to the Golden Rule? If all of us could live out that principle we would have more harmony in our country and not be as divided as we are.


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