Review: The How and The Why by Cynthia Hand

The How and the Why


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.

The story alternates between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption.

My review – spoiler free

I decided to pick up this book because Booksanlala was raving about it on Youtube. But I did also love Far From The Tree, which is a book that has a couple of the same topics as this one. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed at all! I ended up giving The How and The Why  4 out of 5 stars, and here’s why:

I absolutely loved that the book alternated between the letters of the birth mother and Cass’s life. It was nice getting both perspectives, which was something you didn’t have in Far From The Tree. Because you could read both perspectives, the book went into two different things that I enjoyed: the adopted child trying to find out more about their birth parents and the pregnant teen, in this case, and why she decides to give up her child for adoption. I feel like we don’t get the latter perspective a lot in books, but it is a perspective that I really enjoy and would definitely want to read more books that have that perspective in them. You also get that a bit in Far From the Tree, but not to the same extend as in this one.

I also fell in love with S., who is the pregnant teen. She was my favourite character out of the entire book. It’s definitely such a big bonus point for this book to make me fall in love with a character through letters. Because the only thing you have from S. are the letters she has written when she was pregnant. I can’t fully describe why I loved S. so much, I think it’s mainly because we only get to know such a small part of her life, but she is still such a fleshed out character and goes through so much development in such a short period of time.

The reason why this book didn’t end up to be a 5 star read for me, was mainly because of Cass’s character. Not necessarily her character, but more the way she acted. Cass was supposed to represent an 18-year old girl, but to me she felt so much younger. I especially found S. way more mature, and she was only 16. Cass felt very immature to me and sometimes really acted like a 14-year old, which really disappointed me. Cass sometimes said certain things that 14-year old me would have laughed with because what she said was so ridiculous. You can find some examples in my spoiler-filled part of the review, next to another thing I didn’t love about this book, but that’s a massive spoiler.

But after all this book was still a laugh-out-loud funny book to me, even though it also tackles a lot of emotional topics. It was nice to have some lighter moments in between those hard hitting scenes. I remember being at the gym trying to not laugh out loud, but then 10 minutes later being scared that I was going to cry. I really think it’s a positive point if a book can make me feel all the emotions, and it also proves that the author is just a talented author.

I don’t really have anything special to say about the writing style. I did listen to this book as an audiobook so that may be the reason why I don’t really have a remark or something that I loved about the writing style.

So overall I did really like this book, but it had some things that annoyed me so I don’t think it’ll end up on my favourites of 2020 list, but I still definitely recommend this book if it sounds like something you’d enjoy.

My review – with spoilers

I’ll start of the spoiler-filled part of my review with some examples of things that Cass said or did that felt very young for her supposed age of 18 years. At a certain point she used the expression “my second bestie” which made me roll my eyes so hard. “My second bestie” is an expression I have been laughing with since I was like 13 or 14 because I find it so ridiculous. I don’t know why but it just really annoyed me. Especially when she used it again in the epilogue when she was 19 years old. I’m also 19 years old and I would NEVER say that, and I don’t know anyone my age who would use that expression. Oh all these frustrations lol.

At a certain point Cass also felt very out of character when she was having a fight with her best friend and said some mean and racist things. Also the fight was once again very immature.

The other thing that I mentioned earlier in the review that I really didn’t like about this book, was that near the end all of the sudden EVERYTHING was fixed. Cass’s mum all of the sudden had a new heart while she was super close to dying, which of course can happen in real life, but that was the first thing of many things that were fixed out of the blue. Cass also gets accepted for the college she wants to go to, but from the beginning on money is a big problem for Cass’s family. But all of a sudden all of her other family members have money they want to give her to go to that particular college. Why do you then make it such a big issue in the book that she can’t go to that college because it’s too expensive? That really annoyed me as well. And then there was a series of other problems that got fixed out of the blue. That’s really something that I hate about books, another example of a book that has that is the Poet X, and I really hated that book for it.

The ending of the book was also quite something. When I just finished the book, the ending was very unsatisfying to me, but now a few days later I am satisfied with the ending. The whole last chapter is basically Cass debating whether or not she wants to contact her birth mother. And then in the epilogue you get this whole build up of her unintentionally meeting S., but we don’t get to read about the meeting, because then the book ends. Like I said, I was a bit mad about that at first, but then later I actually liked that the ending was quite open.

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