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Cover for The How & the Why

The How & the Why

Cynthia Hand


List Price: 17.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (2/23/2021)
Compact Disc (11/5/2019)
MP3 CD (11/5/2019)

Winter 2019 Kids Indie Next List

“Cass McMurtrey has always known she was adopted, but upon turning 18, she wants to know who she is—not just who her adopted parents raised her to be, but her roots deep down. On a journey surrounded by her fun-loving and caring support system, Cass learns about her family’s past through letters written by her biological mother. A heart-wrenching novel, The How & the Why will leave you wanting more of Cynthia Hand’s talented writing.”
— Kelsi Roberts, Story on The Square, McDonough, GA
View the List


"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.

Praise For The How & the Why

“An excellent exploration of the complicated facets of teen pregnancy, adoption, and sacrifice.” — Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

“This compassionate story rings true.” — Publishers Weekly

“The novel’s great strength is the emotional depth of its characters and the complexity of their relationships. A heartfelt and hopeful story about coming of age as an adoptee.” — School Library Journal

“Hand explores adoption’s multiple dimensions with great insight and sensitivity. Inclusive and illustrative: an engaging lesson in timeless family values.” — Kirkus Reviews

“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. You’ll be reaching for your tissue box with this one -- if you can stop turning pages long enough, that is.” — Brigid Kemmerer, New York Times Bestselling Author of Letters to the Lost

“Beautifully rendered and superbly shaped. Hand has crafted an absorbing novel that focuses on family, friendship, teen pregnancy, adoption, personal choices, and serious health issues. Give this exquisite novel to readers seeking an emotionally intricate story.” — Booklist (starred review)

HarperTeen, 9780062693167, 464pp.

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

About the Author

Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for teens, including the Unearthly trilogy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, The Last Time We Say Goodbye, and My Lady Jane and My Plain Jane (with fellow authors Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows). She currently resides in Boise, Idaho, with her husband, who loves typewriters as much as she does, two cats, two kids, one crazy dog, and a mountain of books. Visit her online at

Conversation Starters from

1. In the first letter, S refers to herself as a “host body.” What do you think her intention was in referring to herself in that way?

2. In Chapter 2, Cass’s mom tells her, “the universe unfolds as it should.” Knowing how to novel ends, does this prove to be true? Do you agree?

3. In Chapter 8, Cass speaks about her “back up dream.” Did you believe her? Can we have “back up dreams?”

4. When S is driving with her mom to the clinic, they hit ice on the road and spin around. She believes it was a sign. Do you believe the universe sends signs? Has anything ever changed the direction you were headed?

5. When S goes to tell Dawson about their baby, she backs out at the last second and decides to write him a letter instead. Why do you think this is? What about putting it in a writing made it easier to say?

6. Throughout the novel, Cass refers to “the green monster.” Is this an accurate way to describe jealousy? Do you think Cass dealt with her jealousy well?

7. Even after Melly tells her she’s no longer required to write letters, S continues writing them. Why do you think she kept going?