HOW TO FIND WHAT YOU’RE NOT LOOKING FOR, by Veera Hiranandani, Kokila, Sept. 14, 2021, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
How to Find What You’re Not Looking For, by Veera Hiranandani, follows a girl as she faces antisemitism and her own family’s prejudices.
Twelve-year-old Ariel Goldberg’s life feels like the moment after the final guest leaves the party. Her family’s Jewish bakery runs into financial trouble, and her older sister has eloped with a young man from India following the Supreme Court decision that strikes down laws banning interracial marriage. As change becomes Ariel’s only constant, she’s left to hone something that will be with her always — her own voice. —Synopsis provided by Kokila
There’s a lot to unpack in How to Find What You’re Not Looking For — religious and racial discrimination, money problems and learning disability — and yet, it all comes together in a cohesive read that is both compelling and thought-provoking.
Everything in Ariel’s life is up in the air. Though her parents are well-meaning, Ariel can’t help but think they’re wrong on a number of issues. Ariel likes her new brother-in-law, and hates that her parents have cut all contact with her sister. The family bakery is Ariel’s second home, but they don’t seem to care. Ariel’s teacher has finally come up with a system that’s helping her excel, but her mother insists Ariel is fine as she is.
Ariel’s situation — the lack of control and desire to change things — is one a lot of readers will see mimicked in their own lives. The circumstances may differ, but the feeling of helplessness is universal. Ariel is a strong character who learns she doesn’t have to go things alone to accomplish them.
Author Veera Hiranandani does a great job introducing historical aspects in smooth and natural ways. She makes tough topics accessible without feeling like they’re “dumbed down.”
How to Find What You’re Not Looking For is a well-paced read that’s equal parts intriguing and heartfelt.