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.
Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for teens, including the UNEARTHLY trilogy, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, MY LADY JANE and MY PLAIN JANE (with fellow authors Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows), THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE, and the upcoming novels THE HOW AND THE WHY and MY CALAMITY JANE (also with Ashton and Meadows). Before turning to writing for young adults, she studied literary fiction and earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in fiction writing. She currently resides in Boise, Idaho, with her husband, two cats, one crazy dog, two kids, and mountain of books.
Let me start off with, I am quite a fan of Cynthia Hand. I think she has a wonderful voice and vision for where her stories are, especially in the Jane series. Although this little number isn’t my favorite of her novels, Hand definitely produced another wonderful YA novel that is very accessible!
The How & The Why is, at its heart, a story of a girl finding herself, through researching the history of her biological mother. In Hand’s traditional fashion, we have a very unique POV–we have our main character’s story, but the biological mother’s story is being told simultaneously through letters she was prompted to write to her unborn child. So, we learn all about the MC’s mother, while the MC is still trying to figure out herself, and how being adopted ties into her story. The MC is sweet, intelligent, and just trying to figure out what the heck this crazy adult world might hold for her.
Full disclosure–I found the biological mother’s story much more interesting than I found the MC’s. The MC was mostly worrying about boys and college, which (while legit concerns) was greatly contrasted by the biological mother who was dumped at a school for pregnant teens after she chose to keep the baby. At this home, we are given a pretty intense view of what life is like for people in this situation. All of this to say, the MC’s story was all right too, but it most definitely paled in comparison to the other point of view, and I would’ve happily read an entire book about the biological mother.
Overall, I did really quite like this book. There were a few moments in the MC’s POV I would’ve loved to see unpacked–I found her “sidekicks” (best friend and love interest) to be way compelling, but we never found out all too much about them. This is, again, not to say the MC had a bad story, but she was surrounded by other’s who had super interesting and undeveloped storylines, and I would’ve loved to have seen some more of them!
Overall, this was a nice read, that sheds light on some very real issues for teens, in a very accessible, and engaging way.
3 out of 5.
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