Jessica Abarquez's Reviews > A Heart Divided

A Heart Divided by Cherie Bennett
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Feb 24, 08

bookshelves: romance
Read in April, 2004

** spoiler alert ** Reference information:
Title: A Heart Divided
Author: Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottensfeld
Publisher: Delacorte Press Year: 2004
# of pages: 306 Genre: fiction
Reading level: Interest level: 12+
Potential hot lava: confederate flag issues, violence, racism

General response/reaction:
I read this novel when it was first published in 2004 because Jeff Gottensfeld came to our creative writing class to talk about how he wrote this novel. It was exciting because he had also either taught or talked with another class (I don’t remember which) about creative writing. I picked up this book, not only because the author came to talk to us, but also because it was set in Franklin, Tennessee. Of course, he re-named the town to Redford, but as I read the story, I could almost envision those places (considering I live near Franklin). Gottensfeld told our class about the different reactions he was getting to some of his work. When he went to a California high school and asked the students if any of their relatives served in the military, very few raised their hands. When Gottensfeld came to the southern states and asked the same question, almost everyone in the class raised their hands. This pride in serving one’s country was the basis of his book.

It was interesting to read about the debate over the confederate flag and the mascot of a “rebel.” For someone from a northern state, of course the flag represents slavery and barbarism. For someone in a southern state, it is a symbol of pride (even if that pride cost them the Civil War). For me, that debate never really held much of an issue. I believe that the flag is a symbol of history no matter how “bad” people might view it. This novel brings up that debate in a creative and compelling way that made the novel easy to read. As I refreshed my memory on the story, I was remembering the debate and how interesting the story was when I first read it. I was glad that I was able to share this gem with my partner

Subjects, Themes, and Big Ideas:

• Racism
• History
• Legacy
• Pride
• Goals


Characters:
• Kate Pride – Narrator, from New Jersey, moved to Redford, TN because of her father’s job, writes plays, wants to change the school’s team name and emblem
• Jack Redford – Kate’s interest, actor, does not take a side in the debate over the team’s name
• Sara Fife – President of the Crimson Maidens, antagonist in the story
• Portia Pride – Kate’s little sister, trying to get accustomed to her new living situation

Plot summary:
Kate Pride is somewhat of a diva in New Jersey. In New Jersey, Kate learned to take care of herself and voice her opinions on any subject she disagreed with. Basically, Kate learned to be harsh in a cruel world. When Kate’s father moves the family for his new job, Kate has to learn how to deal with the Southern Hospitality that is served in Redford, Tennessee each day.

Kate attends Redford High School and learns that their team mascot is the rebels and that their emblem is the Confederate flag. She observes the racism and discrimination still apparent in the school. Kate decides that she wants to try to change the school’s team name and emblem. She gathers some of the students to try to sign a petition that would gather a group to vote whether to change the name or not.

While she works on getting supporters, Kate also participates in the production of her school’s play. As a budding writer, Kate tries to write a play about her experience at Redford High School. She interviews supporters and critics of her stand on the Confederate flag. However, Kate runs into problems as a “copy” of her script surfaces to a negative response from the administration. Not only is she losing support for her cause, her boyfriend Jack will not make a decision whether he is with her or against her. Jack’s decision is harder since he is a legacy in the town.

Kate finally gives up her cause to change the name, but others take the cause further. When a group burns the Confederate flag during a football game, a fight breaks out which results in Portia getting shot. In the end, Kate gets her play performed and moves back to New Jersey. While it sounds like Kate runs back to her comfort zone of New Jersey, she has grown and learned from her experience in the south.


Strengths (including reviews and awards):
The female lead character is strong-willed. Although this story’s main character is a female, it is not a normal love story. Kate is the one driving the action, but there are many obstacles that she must face, including a boyfriend who may not know who to support. This book and its authors are not well known, so I personally believe that this story can surpass expectations and be a diamond in the rough of many “traditional” love stories.

Drawbacks or other cautions:
People in the story are a little harsh when it comes to the insults and the subjects discussed in the novel. However, it is not as bad as other authors could be.

Teaching ideas:
Pre-reading:
• Review the events leading up to the Civil War
• Review the differences between the north and the south during that time
o What were the main issues that made the two differ so much?
o What were they fighting for?
• Have a debate about the Civil War
o Have one half of the room be the north and the other half be the south
o Have the students defend their position
• Journal (it might be different depending on what region of the United States the class is in)
o What is the significance of the Confederate flag?
o Write like a character
 Have the students take the mindset of a southern person during this time.
• Movie: The Patriot
o Mel Gibson and Heth Ledger are in the same family but on opposing sides of the Civil War.

During Reading:
• Follow the different cliques in the high school
o Split the class into the different cliques at Redford High and have them write journals as members of those cliques
• Discuss the dangers of each group

Post Reading:
• Debate: Where do you stand on the issue?
o Keep the class in the different cliques and have them debate the issue
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