4 out of 4 stars
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“This is a land of magic, history, and legend. A place of myth, ancient stories, ancient people.”
Charlie Sheldon’s Strong Heart is a unique and adventurous story about finding acceptance. Though he writes through a fiction/fantasy lens, Sheldon demonstrates how we can find connection across the many cultures in our physical world. I determine that Strong Heart is a Young Adult novel for all genders to enjoy. However, I think young women, especially those looking to satisfy their independent spirit, would benefit most from adding this book to their reading list. [Trigger warning: discussion of domestic abuse contained in this novel.]
On the Olympic Peninsula, the Haida Nation is struggling to preserve their collective history. However, it seems only Myra, William and Tom are willing to publicly challenge the disruption and possible destruction of ancient artifacts and land. But then Sarah, William’s estranged grand-daughter, is dropped on their doorstep. Against their better judgment, they decide to take this disagreeable teen on a conservationist trek into the woods. Little do they know that Sarah’s personal journey will become the glue which holds together their community’s past present and future.
The first great aspect I noticed about this book was Sheldon’s choice for his epigraph. He quotes the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung: “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart ... Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” This excerpt sets an adventurous tone and refers brilliantly to Sarah’s experience as “Strong Heart.” I also noticed how Sarah develops through her bold personality. While she begins her initial trip through the woods, she’s cranky and disrespectful. I could tell she is a character who doesn't like being told what to do. This personality shines through when Sarah learns how to coexist with the people she meets on her way to The Place People Were. She learns how to make and use her own weapons, simultaneously becoming a part of the team without losing her independent spirit.
This point brings me to why I think young women should read Strong Heart. I get a “Katniss Everdeen” feel from Sarah because of her efforts to be heard and remain strong through her journey. I also think Myra is a good character for young women to latch onto as the narrative unfolds. She is stubbornly married to her convictions, which is both a good and bad quality in any character. However, I do think it’s necessary for more women characters to be argumentative in order to convince young women they are able to have their own thoughts and opinions, stand their ground when faced with opposition to those thoughts and opinions, and to say “no” when they want to do so.
The only suggestion I have for this text would be to complete one more quick round of editing. There really weren’t too many typos or confusing sections of text. There are a few areas with a lot of back and forth dialogue that could be quoted more clearly and a couple sentences missing a word; but otherwise, Strong Heart was a great read. I give it 4 out of 4 stars.
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