Today Marshmallow reviews How to Find What You’re Not Looking For, a 2021 novel by Veera Hiranandani.
Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family, friends, or historical fiction, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Ariel Goldberg’s life is drastically changed forever when her older sister Leah elopes with a man from India.
The book starts in the summer of 1967. Interracial marriage is now legal, however, stigma and bias remain, even in Ariel’s parents. Leah tells Ariel about her relationship with Raj, an Indian college student, and says that they have plans for the future, which greatly worries Ariel. When the girls’ parents meet Raj, they don’t like him. This is mainly because Ariel’s family is Jewish, and Raj is not; they don’t want their daughter to marry a person who is not Jewish. Ariel likes Raj, but she definitely doesn’t want her sister to marry anyone yet. But then one day, Leah and Raj elope, and Ariel’s life is forever changed.
Besides all that is going on in her home life, Ariel has been having problems at school. There seems to be a new rift between her and her best friend, Jane. Ariel is also bullied by a boy who hates Jewish people. On top of all this, Ariel also has trouble writing. Her new teacher, Miss Field, believes that she has dysgraphia. Miss Field brings a typewriter for her to use and asks Ariel to write short poems to practice writing.
Ever since Leah left, Ariel’s life seems to be falling apart. Can Ariel put it back together?
Marshmallow’s Review: How to Find What You’re Not Looking For raises many complex issues such as racial and religious bias in a way that teaches but also gives hope. It shows that bias is not just in other people but everywhere. It also shows that there might be reasons for behavior that looks excluding, such as people wanting to sustain their family culture and identity, but it does clearly show that stigma and bias are not okay.
I found it interesting how the main character wrote poems to express what is happening in the book. I found it to be a good way for the author to tell the reader how the main character, Ariel, is feeling. The poems really add something to the book.
The story is set in 1967; the author uses words like “groovy” to show how the narrator is living in the past. The narrator is also always using the second person “you” and everything is told in the present tense. This gives the story a more urgent tone somehow and like everything is happening all at once, as you read the book.
This book includes information about the Loving vs. Virginia case from 1967 and the ideas around interracial marriage play a significant role in its plot. Martin Luther Jr.’s murder from 1968 is also mentioned. In other words, How to Find What You’re Not Looking For talks about racial and religious injustice very openly. This makes me think that this book would be more appropriate for older bunnies, from 10 and up. There isn’t really any inappropriate content for younger bunnies, so younger readers could also enjoy it, but I think 10 and up would be able to understand the context better and so get the most out of this book.
Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.