cover image The How and the Why

The How and the Why

Cynthia Hand. HarperTeen, $17.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-269316-7

Growing up in Idaho with loving parents, Cassandra McMurtrey has always known she was adopted, but now, at 18, she’s curious about her birth mother. Because the adoption was closed, her parents have little information to give. But with the support of her best friend, Nyla, an adopted orphan from Liberia, Cassandra begins a search that leads to a stack of letters written by “S,” her birth mother. Hand (My Plain Jane) drew on the search for her own biological mother in this compelling novel, which offers two dramas in one: witty letters penned by “S” alternate with events from Cassandra’s senior year as she develops a crush on a new student, plays a lead role in a school play, and worries about her adoptive mother, who is in dire need of a heart transplant. Many characters emerge as heroes here, sacrificing their own desires for others: “S,” who is determined to find the perfect parents for her unborn daughter; Cassandra, who remains considerate of the feelings of birth mother and adoptive parents; and her adoptive parents, who put their own concerns aside to do what’s best for their child. If the tidy ending relies too heavily on coincidence, the rest of this compassionate story rings true. Ages 13–up. [em](Nov.) [/em]