Review: The How & the Why (Cynthia Hand)

The How & the Why
Author: Cynthia Hand
Narrators: Phoebe Strole, Erin Spencer
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Adoption

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

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.


I am not going to lie. This book made me a MESS. It emotionally impacted me from the minute I started listening to it. I know it probably won’t hit as many readers the way it did me, but man. I kind of wanted to bawl the entire time I was reading it.

The How & the Why (in simple terms) is the story of a teenager navigating life while dealing with feelings about her adoption and searching for her birth mother. Cass’s present day life and struggles are sandwiched by letters her birth mother wrote to her while pregnant.

So why was I so emotional while reading this? 1. I’m an adoptee from a closed adoption. While I have never searched for my birth parents or truly had the urge to, I could relate to and understand Cass’s feelings. I can remember being close to her age and having some of the same questions and feelings. 2. As a mother, I cannot imagine what giving up a child would feel like — whether you wanted to or not. 3. During the listening process, my daughter went through allergy testing due to hives she’s been having over the past few months and it freaks me out a bit that I can’t provide more health background for her. More than you wanted to know in a review, but it had me even more emotional while listening to this book.

Beside my feelings, what did I think of The How & the Why? It was a beautifully written story. If I hadn’t known from the beginning of the book, I probably would have been able to tell this had been written by an adoptee or someone who had been through an adoption in some form. Every emotion and thought that went through Cass’s head felt raw and real. The letters from her birth mom hit me in the heart. There was so much love and thought to this story. It was just really beautiful.

Honestly, parts of this book could have sucked or tanked and I wouldn’t have cared because of how important the entire story was to me. I haven’t felt like this about a book with adoption since I read Robin Benway’s Far From the Tree.

P.S.: The narration was fabulous. I can’t leave that out.

11 thoughts on “Review: The How & the Why (Cynthia Hand)”

  1. I’m sorry that you cried while reading this, but it is wonderful when you have such an emotional connection to a story. Your review was lovely, I will be adding this to my TBR.

    1. Thank you! It was a really great, emotional read. I buddy read it with someone of GR and they loved it as well.

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