Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lena - Jacqueline Woodson

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


Melody said...

I've heard great things about her books, Sandy! I'll have to check them out!

Unknown said...

I don't like reading tow books by the same author in a row, so these books must be quite special if you were compelled to do so.

She is on my wishlist now, so hopefully I'll find a copy soon.

PS. I am having problems with my blog feed, so don't rely on google reader for the next few days, as I don't know how to fix it.

Alice said...

I have to check out this author soon.

Susan said...

It's been a long time since I've read any books geared toward teens, but these sound too good to pass up. Add them to the pile!

JoAnn said...

Woodson was put on my list after your last review. I'm thinking of her for a read-a-thon...

Beth F said...

With all this Woodson talk, the books are going to be hard to resist!

bermudaonion said...

Oh, I hope it has a happy ending. You've really made me want to read both of these books.

Amy said...

Great review! I'm certainly interested now!

Unknown said...

This is a wonderful review Sandy. I'm happy to know the author decided to continue the story she started...I've read several books which, when they end, I always wish there was another book.

Both books are on my TBR list. Thank you Sandy!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - she is a wonderful writer, and her books are like a two hour read. You must look her up!

Jackie - Like I just said to Melody, she has a special way about her, plus they are quick reads. I think I could sit and read her for a week straight.

Alice - Just try one, and I think you'd be hooked.

Susan - I'm not a huge teen book reader, but unlike some, Woodson doesn't "dumb them down". They are pure and real.

JoAnn - they would be perfect for a read-a-thon, because they are refreshing and very quick reads!

Beth - I know we have had conversations before about YA and children's books. This is a perfect example of excellent literature for children that isn't dumbed down, just like Lowry.

Kathy - hee hee. I'm not spilling the beans. The good news is you can read both of these books in about two days, and you'll know!

Amy Reads - like I said before, just try one. They are like Pringles. You won't be able to stop once you get started!

Amy - I'm so glad you have added them to your list. Let me know when you get your hands on one.

Ana S. said...

I actually didn't know there was a sequel to I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This! *takes note*

Kathleen said...

Well I remember your reviw of "I hadn't meant to tell you this". I added the book to my TBR spreadsheet. Now here is yet another I must add! Thanks for a great review.

Anna said...

These sound really good. I'll keep them in mind when I need a quick, but powerful read.

Diary of an Eccentric

Melissa said...

I read I Hadn't Meant To Tell You recently and am glad to hear there is more to the story. I will have to see if the library has this one too. Thanks for the great review!