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


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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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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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