Powerful and emotional

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*Thank you to BookishFirst for this copy of How To Find What You’re Not Looking For in exchange for an honest review*

How To Find What You’re Not For by Veera Hiranandani is a powerful, heartwarming story that really makes you think. Poignant the subject matter is surprisingly heavy for a middle-grade story although one that is critically important especially in today’s world and our political climate. The Goldberg’s are a typical close knit family with a close bond. Ariel and her big sister Leah have a very close relationship until one day she Ariel a secret that would lead her and her family on a journey of self-discovery and ultimately forgiveness.

Leah tells Ariel that she is in love and wants to get married but that she has to keep it a secret and should not tell their parents. They simply wouldn’t understand but Leah was determined. Her parents were very traditional and wanted the best for their daughters. They ran a bakery Gerties and always had big goals and dreams for them. Leah though had different plans she was in love and wanted to get married. Ariel didn’t understand Leah and why she was in love.

Her boyfriend Raj seemed nice enough but she didn’t want their family to break up and sister was acting so different but all she really wanted was for her sister to be happy and Raj made her that way. So when Leah invited him over for dinner one night Ariel was confused. Their parents nice enough but their was underlying tension she couldn’t figure out. Mom kept asking Raj whether he would be staying or returning to India. That was the issue Leah had chosen the wrong boyfriend and he wasn’t Jewish he was Indian and was a practicing Hindu.

The Goldberg’s did not approve not in the least so Leah and Raj run away and eloped their parents approval be dammed-they were in love that was the only thing that mattered. Ariel was devastated and confused. How could Leah just abandon her like that? Ariel was desperate for answers but her parents were no help they had completely shut down and as far as they were concerned their daughter was dead to them for turning her back on her family and their faith.

On top of all that Ariel was expecting issues of her own. School had always been hard for her and on top of her issues with learning a bully Chris Heaton has gone out of his way to make her life miserable. She knew the reason though she had done nothing wrong other than the fact that Ariel and her family was Jewish. Ariel though had found a reprieve from all of her struggles she suddenly found herself in even if it was a simple one poetry. Her teacher Miss Fields had taken notice of this which is something Ariel had never experienced before.

None of her previous teachers had been like Miss Fields. She had taken her under her wing and encouraged her poetry which Ariel had felt soothing. Miss Fields also explained to Ariel what she suspected might be the cause of of why Ariel struggled in school so much she had a learning disability called dysgraphia. Ariel was embarrassed but really appreciated her teacher’s help. She was also determined to find her sister Leah. She couldn’t understand what she had done wrong to make her leave her.

What Ariel learns along the way along the way is that their are many different kinds of prejudice whether it be religious or cultural or just a basic lack of understanding of another’s differences. Leah had shown her that when she brought up a landmark case that the Supreme Court had just ruled on Loving V. Virginia. The decision had made interracial marriage legal. She had even done a school report on it and even hit close to home in the midst of Leah’s relationship with a non-Jewish man.

Ultimately it was Ariel’s determination with the help of her friend Jane that she was able to track down Leah and help bridge the divide between Leah, Raj and their parents showing them the error of their ways and really the lack of understanding between both parties. She would learn from a powerful influential man that brought about a revelation that would change the world “Hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that”- Martin Luther King JR.