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The how & the why
2019
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Summary
"Cynthia Hand is the master of pulling at your heartstrings. The How & the Why tells both sides of an adoption story with love, compassion, and care." --Brigid Kemmerer, New York Times bestselling author of Letters to the Lost

A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.

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--but she has questions, too. 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 placed her for adoption, this emotionally resonant narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.
Trade Reviews
School Library Journal Review
Gr 8 Up--For high school senior Cassandra McMurtrey, turning 18 means being old enough to face the question of whether she should seek out her birth mother. Adopted as an infant in a closed domestic adoption, Cass has a good life: she's a talented musical theater performer with loving parents and a best friend, Nyla, who always has her back. She isn't missing anything except "the how and the why"--a knowledge of where she came from. But seeking out information about her birth mother's identity results in bureaucratic frustrations and multiple dead ends. Interspersed with Cass's story are letters written 18 years earlier by her birth mother, who signs her letters as S, as part of a state program in which women could leave letters for their babies. S describes herself as the "solidly average" 16-year-old daughter of a local politician, living at a residential school for pregnant teens and wittily narrating her feelings of ambiguity about the pregnancy and the events that led up to it. This book offers an emotionally nuanced look at adoption from the perspective of both the birth mother and the child, which is informed by the author's own experiences as an adoptee. The novel's great strength is the emotional depth of its characters and the complexity of their relationships to one another. Cass's friendship with Nyla, who was adopted from Liberia as a young child, offers a contrasting adoption experience that both girls struggle with: is it better to have answers about the past the way Nyla does, even if those answers are heartbreaking? While the ending may feel overly convenient, the story places more significance on the messy journey than the idealized arrival. VERDICT A heartfelt and hopeful story about coming of age as an adoptee that is highly recommended for all collections.--Elizabeth Giles, Lubuto Library Partners, Zambia
Booklist Review
Being adopted as a baby has given Cass a good life with loving parents and the best friend ever. But now that she's 18, she feels the urge to search for the woman who gave her life. Little by little while still mindful of her parents' feelings Cass chips away at the blank wall dividing her from information she desperately needs in order to complete her sense of self. The narrative is told via two alternating voices that are rich and distinct: Cass', as she moves through her senior year, and her 16-year-old birth mother's, relayed in a series of letters written to the baby while she was pregnant. Their individual issues, dreams, needs, and visions are beautifully rendered and superbly shaped. Inspired by her own experience of being an adopted child, Hand has crafted an absorbing novel that focuses on family, friendship, teen pregnancy, adoption, personal choices, and serious health issues. Cass believably embodies the role of the unassuming female protagonist whose life, through no fault of her own, is roundly challenged, and she finds ways to rise above the conflicts. Give this exquisite novel to readers seeking an emotionally intricate story.--Jeanne Fredriksen Copyright 2010 Booklist
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