Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The How & the Why by Cynthia Hand

The How & the Why

Cassandra McMurtrey has always been curious to know more details about the 16-year old biological mother who gave her up in a closed adoption in Idaho Falls. After turning 18, she decides to search for her while struggling with her adoptive mother’s hospital stay and heart condition. While Cass is searching for the truth about her biological mother “S,” the author directly reveals her narrative to the reader by interweaving letters every few chapters that “S” writes for an unborn Cass. “S” discusses the circumstances of Cass’s conception, the dysfunctional and cold home life she has, the events that pass at the Booth Memorial, a place for pregnant teenagers to achieve schooling, and the other pregnant teen girls that she’s surrounded by. As the span of a school year passes by with Cass learning more about her best friend Nyla’s adoptive situation, rehearsing with new boy Bastian, and trying to understand about the identity of “S”, “S” has her pregnancy journey simultaneously unfold.

I thought the book was engaging and sweet, even though it moved at a slow pace. As a result, I loved seeing the loving and supportive relationship that Cass had with her parents with all of her ventures and all of the charming, sarcastic, and poignant letters that “S” wrote. Still, I wish that Nyla’s story was explored more and her imperfect situations touched upon in her friendship with Cass. I also would’ve preferred Bastian being less of a potential love interest and more of a friend since I don’t feel like the romance aspect meaningfully added to the story.

Nyla discussing her heritage and the identity she had as a baby is interesting because she’s raised by her adoptive parents as an African-American, English-speaking, Mormon; yet, this is the exact opposite of how she was born. Even though adoption can be a wonderful thing for children, it did highlight that there are stories, family members, languages, and cultures that are lost in building an identity for yourself that I hadn’t considered.

Reviewed by Manasa, Twin Hickory Library

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