In Cynthia Hand’s The How and the Why, delving into the past is a difficult journey.
Eighteen years ago, a teenage girl placed her baby for adoption. That girl grew up to be Cass. Although her wonderful parents adore her, Cass still wonders where she came from. As she considers whether to search for her past, Cass learns that her first mother wrote a series of letters to her years ago—letters that will hold many clues, but could also spark new questions or concerns. Should she dig into her past? What will her parents think? Does her first mother even want to be found?
Cass’s dilemma is set against the backdrop of her preparations for college—which in itself provides plenty of challenges for Cass, her father (who is pushing her to attend his alma mater) and her best friend, Nyla (who wins the coveted drama scholarship Cass wanted). Cass’s story is interwoven with letters from S, Cass’s first mother, reflecting on her life at the home and struggling to write words for her daughter to read many years from now.
The How and the Why presents an honest and accurate view of how many adopted teens must feel—wanting to plan their futures while still wondering about their pasts. A well-rounded cast of characters and fully developed story make this an absorbing read.