Summary: When her father is diagnosed with Huntington’s Chorea, Cassidy learns from her research that it’s a degenerative genetic illness she stands a 50% chance of inheriting herself. But when she expresses this concern to her parents, Cassidy learns good news and bad news. The good news is she has no chance of inheriting her father’s disease. The bad news is her biological father is actually an anonymous sperm donor, and her parents have been keeping the true nature of her conception a secret for her whole life. Plunged into self-doubt, questioning who she is and everything she knows about herself, Cassidy turns to her boyfriend Jason for reassurance and a place of belonging, only to find missing the source of one half of her DNA seeps into every aspect of her life whether she wants it to or not.
Number of Pages: 237
Age Range: 15-17
Review: Cassidy is a sixteen year-old whose world is about to fall apart. One day her biggest problem is having too much money and trying to convince her boyfriend they should wait to have sex, and the next her father is diagnosed with Huntington’s Chorea and her parents reveal a secret they’ve been keeping from her for years.
Finding Cassidy by Laura Langston could have easily gone awry. With the serious theme of a devastating, terminal illness on top of lies from parental figures, questions of identity and losing one’s virginity, I was impressed with Langston’s ability to juggle everything while maintaining believability and not being too heavy handed.
What I loved best was the fact that though there will be real and serious consequences to not knowing who her biological father is in the future, Cassidy comes to a place where she can accept what her family has been telling her from the start – that blood doesn’t matter. Choosing to love someone does. Belonging lies in sticking together, and being there for someone time and time again. When Cassidy lets this realisation in at last, it allows her to be there for Frank, her ‘adopted’ father, as Huntington’s Chorea begins to take a hold of his life.
I wonder what Cassidy’s future will be like, whether she will discover half siblings and eventually win the right to find out her biological father’s name. Langston’s novel is a timely and thoughtful exploration about the contrast of rights between adopted children and those conceived via donated sperm.
Cassidy’s own journey at times feels reactive and over-the-top, but Langston’s writing allowed me to get inside Cassidy’s head and understand what it would feel like to have the bottom suddenly fall out of her life. What would it be like not to know if the person you meet on the street could be your father? You’d always be wondering, questioning – something Langston portrays very well through Cassidy’s experience. Combined with the normal exploration of identity as well as the natural conflicts with parents that happen during the teen years, and I can easily see why Cassidy cut up all her photo albums.
I was immediately caught up in her struggles and relationships and didn’t want to put the book down when it was done. I especially loved the little facts about birds that started each chapter from a grade four project Cassidy did.
Finding Cassidy is simply a well-written, intriguing read that I would recommend to mid to older teen readers.
“‘Telling him would be the kind thing to do.’ Big Mac smoothed down his thin, white hair. Seconds later, it sprang back into its usually upright tufts. ‘You know, Dee Dee Bird,’ he finally said, ‘Frank couldn’t be any more my son if her were my own flesh and blood. And you’re as much my grandchild as Colleen’s kids are.’
‘Do you really believe that?’
‘I don’t believe that. I know that.'” – Conversation between Big Mac and Cassidy about his feelings toward his adopted son from Finding Cassidy from Laura Langston, page 141
“‘You’re my granddaughter. You’re Grace and Frank’s daughter. Belonging is about love, not genetics.’ Big Mac paused. When I didn’t respond, he said, ‘Here’s something else to think about. That donor might be your father, but he’s not your dad. You’re already got one of those.’ His knees cracked as he pulled himself out of the chair. ‘And consider yourself lucky. Dee Dee Bird, because he’s the finest dad I’ve ever had the privilege to know.'” – Big Mac tries to give Cassidy a pep talk about where she really belongs from Finding Cassidy by Laura Langston, page 142
“Call me stupid, call me irrational – Lord knows, Jason had called me everything else – but it would have been easier if Frank had gotten mad about the search. Or had opposed my DNA plan. I could’ve gotten mad right back. We could have yelled at each other, and I would have been upset, and then I could have gone off and found something else to cut up.
Instead I felt bad because Frank MacLaughlin wasn’t my real dad. And I wanted him to be – even though I would have been at risk of getting Huntington’s.
At least then I would have belonged to him. And he would have belonged to me.
And dying is way easier to face when you belong to someone.” – Cassidy from Finding Cassidy by Laura Langston, page 190
“When you gave blood to sustain life, you had to tell them everything. When you gave sperm to start life, you were allowed to tell them nothing?” – Cassidy from Finding Cassidy by Laura Langston, page 214