Review of How to Find What You're Not Looking For

How to Find What You’re Not Looking For
by Veera Hiranandani
Intermediate, Middle School    Kokila/Penguin    384 pp.    g
9/21    978-0-525-55503-2    $17.99

Eleven-year-old Ariel Goldberg lives with her parents and older sister Leah, eighteen, in 1960s Connecticut, her family having left Brooklyn for more space and “better schools.” Now they own Gertie’s Bakery, named for the girls’ grandmother, where after school Ari helps bake the challah and other items (among the rest of the bakery offerings) that recall their Jewish roots. Then “good girl” Leah shares some news: she has fallen in love with Raj, who is from India and a Hindu. The girls’ parents’ insistence on marriage inside the faith leads to painful estrangement, with Ari left dumbfounded by their reaction. At school she is struggling, too, both with her classwork and with antisemitic bullying. A supportive teacher, a loyal friend, and a newfound love of poetry help her cope; and she hatches a plan to find her sister in NYC, where Leah now lives with Raj. The text’s second-person perspective brings readers directly into dialogue with Ari as she contemplates heavy issues of family, religion, racism, generational trauma, financial insecurity, and more. Pop-culture references and historical details (MLK’s murder; Loving v. Virginia) that underscore the book’s themes are naturally incorporated. After much tsuris (Ma’s word), the story ends on a hopeful note, with the future of this family — including its next generation — bringing understanding and unity. An author’s note is appended.

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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