A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed my very first Jacqueline Woodson book, "I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This" (a recommendation from Natasha and Amy). Beautiful in its simplicity, it told a story of a well-to-do black girl, Marie, living in a black community, who befriends the new girl, Lena. Because Lena is white, she is ostracized by most of the kids, but she and Marie find common ground by both being motherless. Lena soon reveals to Marie that her father has been molesting her for years, and, at the end of the book, he even begins molesting Lena's younger sister Dion. (In order to review "Lena", I must tell you what happens at the end of this book. I don't think it would minimize the book at all, but if you detest spoilers of any kind, stop reading now and know that you must read both books, and you will be compelled to read them together! )
So anyway, back to where I was...In order to survive, Lena and Dion leave without a trace. Marie is broken-hearted and worried for her friend. Will she ever see her again? Where did they go, and what happened to their father?
According to Jacqueline Woodson's website, she had not intended to write a sequel to "I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This", but after receiving a barrage of letters begging for closure, she acquiesced. "Lena" tells you of Lena and Dion's fate after leaving their father.
Feeling like they had no other choice, the girls hit the road. They cut their hair to resemble boys. Lena wraps an ace bandage around her chest, and wears baggy flannel shirts. And they hitchhike their way towards Kentucky, destined for a small town where Lena and Dion's mother was born. Surely there will be people there to take them in and offer them a home. They sleep in hospital waiting rooms and in the woods. They accept rides only from seemingly trustworthy people. While they have devised a tall tale to satisfy adult suspicions, their guise is transparent. Lena and Dion meet all walks of life on their journey, and are blessed with their charity and caring hearts. When they accept a ride from an elderly black woman, someone Dion initially didn't trust because of her skin color, their lives are changed forever. And that's all I'm going to say about that!
While this sequel doesn't necessarily hit the high mark that its predecessor did, it must be read. You will not be satisfied to leave the story lie with "I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This". While our narrator in the first book is Marie, we get a turn at hearing from Lena in this novel, and is a treat. Lena is a girl full of spirit, a survival instinct and a deep, protective love for her sister. She is a vivid and admirable character. And I'm thinking that if the first book made you cry, this one will get you too, in the end.
4 out of 5 stars