The How and the Why
Published November 5, 2019
About The How and the Why
A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.
Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…
Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.
But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.
Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.
I had so much fun reading THE HOW AND THE WHY. First off, there’s so much humor– both situational (like when Cass blurts out that she wants to get a boyfriend and have sex only to realize her whole family has overheard her) and that witty banter between characters that I absolutely could eat with a spoon.
But it’s not just a funny, silly story. Not only is Cass wrestling with wanting to know her biological mom, but she’s also facing potentially losing her adopted mom to a heart problem.
Even thinking back through some of the scenes has me tearing up. So many moments are just packed with emotions that leap off the page and grab you by the tear ducts. I think I full-on ugly cried at one point.
When I realized that the story was going to alternate between Cass’s life and the letters she ends up receiving from her biological mom, I wasn’t sure how that was going to work. I feel like it’s really hard to do that kind of a back-and-forth story and do both parts well, create two individual voices, keep tension and interest in both stories, etc.
But oh my gosh did Cynthia Hand do that well! I felt like the balance and the character/plot development were perfect. I had questions, I felt tension at all the right moments. I invested in both stories.
I feel like the obvious comparisons are to books like PAST PERFECT LIFE and WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE because they wrestle with estranged family. But I think any readers who enjoy strong contemporary stories, especially ones about drama kids, will love THE HOW AND THE WHY. I think also fans of HOW TO BE BRAVE by E. Katherine Kottaras will want this one on their reading lists.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Cass’s best friend is Mormon and black. One of her friends comes out to her as gay. Both Cass and her best friend are adopted.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used infrequently.
Cass tells her friend she wants to have sex.
Some reference to Cass’s best friend’s Mormon beliefs, including that she doesn’t swear or drink caffeine.
Some reference to physical abuse (happens off-scene).
Some details about a high school teen drinking alcohol with a college boy.
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