New York Times best-selling author 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 and dumps him over e-mail. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time with 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 musical 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?
Smith's timely novel considers racial prejudice witnessed and experienced by Muscogee (Creek) Native Louise Wolfe as she pursues typical senior-year activities in a suburban Kansas town. Relative newcomers Lou and her freshman brother, Hughie, wholeheartedly take on high school life: Lou joins the school newspaper, and Hughie is cast as the Tin Man in an inclusive production of The Wizard of Oz. Romance blossoms for Lou with Joey, a Lebanese-American fellow journalist, as resistance to the ethnically diverse casting of Oz begins to build. The school newspaper staff, with Lou and Joey jointly reporting, takes a stand against the newly formed Parents Against Revisionist Theatre, which quickly shows that it is unafraid to play dirty. Smith depicts the Wolfes' warm family life as a stable foundation as Hughie and Lou each confront challenges, and she is especially successful at portraying the camaraderie and conflicts of the newspaper staff. An overload of secondary characters sometimes slows the pace, but the central conflicts and the main characters are convincingly developed, resulting in a thought-provoking work of realistic teen fiction. Ages 14 up. \n