Summary: How to Find What You’re Not Looking For
How to Find What You’re Not Looking For is such an intriguing title. Add to it the fact that it’s written by Veera Hiranandani, author of the bestselling middle grade title, The Night Diary and I knew I had to read it. This book follows 12-year-old Ariel whose life is upturned when her big sister (the best of them all), Leah, elopes with her Indian-American boyfriend after the Loving vs. Virginia ruling. Ariel’s parents are upset, Ariel is struggling with being able to write well at school, and she can’t stop thinking about her sister and everything happening in the world.
This book is written from the second-person point of view, but told from Ariel’s perspective, which is a rare narration style. So, it took me a while to adjust to the fact that the protagonist was narrating but being referred to as “you,” — and you was not really me (if that makes sense). But by 20% in, I was mostly adjusted and immersed in Ariel’s world.
The language in this book is accessible, but so beautiful to read. Ariel expresses emotions in such an articulate and powerful way. The sheer pleasure of reading this was enough to take me to the end. Happily, the plot is also strong. Much like in Claire Swinarski’s What Happens Next, the protagonist’s story is tightly woven with the missteps or choices of an older sister. And yet, it’s about the protagonist still.
Another significant plot point is that Ariel has dysgraphia — which is not as commonly written about as dyslexia. We see how it affects her (especially because she really is a brilliant writer) and how she finds help. Finally, being Jewish, being American, antisemitism, and straddling two cultures are other themes this story explores.
Overall: How to Find What You’re Not Looking For
How to Find What You’re Not Looking For is a poignant, moving, and brilliantly written middle grade novel about family, identity, and love. Set against the background of the 1968 Loving vs. Virginia verdict and written from a second-person point of view, this book follows an insightful young Jewish protagonist confronting the world’s harsh realities and inequities. This one is a real treat for tween and adult readers.