I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This

( 13 )

Overview

Twelve-year-old Marie is one of the popular girls in the prosperous black suburb. She’s not looking for a friend when Lena Bright, a white girl, appears in school. But the two girls are drawn to each other. You see, both Lena and Marie have lost their mothers. On top of that, Marie soon learns that Lena has a terrifying secret. Marie wants to help, but is it better to keep Lena’s secret, or to tell it? Their friendship—and Lena’s survival— may depend on her decision.

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Overview

Twelve-year-old Marie is one of the popular girls in the prosperous black suburb. She’s not looking for a friend when Lena Bright, a white girl, appears in school. But the two girls are drawn to each other. You see, both Lena and Marie have lost their mothers. On top of that, Marie soon learns that Lena has a terrifying secret. Marie wants to help, but is it better to keep Lena’s secret, or to tell it? Their friendship—and Lena’s survival— may depend on her decision.

Author Biography: Jacqueline Woodson lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Marie, the only black girl in the eighth grade willing to befriend her white classmate Lena, discovers that Lena's father is doing horrible things to her in private.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This sensitive yet gritty novel about incest may be Woodson's ( Between Madison and Palmetto ) strongest work to date. Marie, the eighth-grade narrator, lives in an all-black suburb of Athens, Ohio, with her father; her mother, who has inherited money from her own parents, sends arty messages from the far-flung locales she has toured since leaving the family two years ago. Ignoring the sneers of her friends--and her father's warnings--Marie befriends ``whitetrash'' Lena, the new girl at school. Woodson confronts sticky questions about race head-on, with the result that her observations and her characterizations are all the more trustworthy. Her approach to the incest theme is less immediate but equally convincing--Marie receives Lena's restrained confidences about being molested, at first disbelieving Lena, then torn between her desire to help her friend and her promise not to tell anyone. Lena has tried all the textbook solutions--including reporting her father to the authorities--and has learned that outside interference only brings more trouble. Marie, struggling to cope with her mother's desertion, must accept Lena's disappearance, too, when Lena and her younger sister first decide to run away and then do flee. Told in adroitly sequenced flashbacks, Woodson's novel is wrenchingly honest and, despite its sad themes, full of hope and inspiration. Ages 12-up. (May)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
In short, easy to read chapters, Woodson tells the story of two girls whose friendship rises above their racial differences. Lena is poor, white, and in the minority at her school, while Marie is a spoiled materialistic middle class black girl. Marie, to her horror, learns that Lena's father is sexually abusing his daughters. She provides support and help to her friend Lena.
The ALAN Review - Joyce A. Litton
Woodson's account of the friendship between Marie, a middle-class African-American girl, and Lena, a poor white girl, is set in an oddly fictionalized version of the real-life village of Chauncey in southeastern Ohio. It demonstrates that class and race are not always deterrents to understanding. The two twelve-year olds are united by the bond of motherlessness. Swearing Marie to secrecy, Lena tells her that her father touches her inappropriately. The author is not graphic in her depiction of the incest. Lena's nervous laughter, vacant stares, and day dreaming are believable in a girl who has experienced such trauma. The novel ends with stark realism when Lena and her younger sister, Dion, run away because their father has begun to molest Dion. The book would be better if it would teach readers who may be victims of incest that they should speak out against the abuse they suffer.
Children's Literature - Heather McCrea-Andrews
Race, economics, and familial relationships help to reveal the dark underbelly of abuse in small-town America. Chauncey, Ohio, is the place where Marie and Lena meet and forge a friendship. Marie is a popular, middle-school student who risks her social standing to befriend Lena, the new girl in town. Lena is a survivor, and makes no secret about that. She has not only survived the death of her mother, but is living with sexual abuse at the hand of her father. Children like Lena usually fall through society's cracks, but Marie won't let that happen. Although Marie's mother is still alive, she is emotionally unavailable to Marie and her father. It's difficult to read this story and not wish more people were as good-hearted as Marie. If they were, perhaps more children would know the comfort of a good friend. Recommended.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-This exceptional book is told from the viewpoint of Marie, a popular eighth grader in a predominantly black, middle-class school. When a poor white girl shows up mid-term, Marie finds herself drawn to Lena; both have recently lost their mothers. Despite social and familial pressures, an awkward friendship develops. Then Lena blurts out that her father is molesting her. Marie avoids her, unable to face the awfulness of what she's been told. When Lena confronts her, Marie in turn doubts that she is telling the truth, blames her friend, and then feels impotent rage. Lena shouts back, "`Don't be hating me. It ain't about me!'" Far from being a diatribe on child abuse, this novel explores the complex and often contradictory responses of individuals-and society-to the plight of abused children. With searing honesty, Woodson shows Lena's father for the damaged and pitiful person that he is. She raises questions for which society has no answers. By skillfully weaving together themes of abandonment, emotional maturation, and friendship across social and economic barriers, the author goes far deeper than the typical ``problem novel.'' Lena's tragedy-her only recourse is to take her sister and run-is balanced by Marie's ability to come to terms with the loss of her mother and by her decision to tell her friend's story so that ``maybe someday other girls like you and me can fly through this stupid world without being afraid.'' Lena's hope lies in the fact that she does break through, express her anger, and get out. While there are no easy answers for either girl, there is honesty, growth, and love in their relationship that gives young readers hope for the future.-Carolyn Polese, Humboldt State Univ., Arcata, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142417041
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/11/2010
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 310,139
  • Age range: 11 - 15 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson has received numerous awards for her middle-grade and young adult books, which include the National Book Award Finalist Hush and the Coretta Scott King Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner Miracle's Boys.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(9)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 10, 2013

    This was a really good, fluid novel. It was a quick read and ver

    This was a really good, fluid novel. It was a quick read and very interesting. The content is a little mature so it may only be appropriate for high school aged students and older.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2011

    Must Read!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Jacqueline Woodson is an amazing author. She has a good was with words. Her book "I Hadn't Meant To Tell You This" is a good and inspiring book for young girls. The two main characters Marie and Lena ended up having more in common than what meets the eye and became really close friends. This Coretta Scott King award winner book is empowering and very complex.

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  • Posted January 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A book parents and youths should read and discuss.

    This book delves into an all-too-common but often overlooked societal issue: domestic sexual abuse of children. People know, in theory, that this takes place. But no one wants to believe it is something that could happen to them, to a loved one, or even to someone they know. No one wants to believe they are related to, are associated with, or even live near an adult capable of this atrocity. And yet, statistically, literally all of us must, on some level, know or have had contact w/ both an abuser and a victim.
    This book illustrates how the victims are real people, who are still trying to keep their lives together despite the horrifying things that they endure behind closed doors in the one place they should always be safe: their own home.
    A young girl yearns for friendship and desperately wants to protect her younger sister from suffering her same fate. Her young friend wants to keep the secret she has been entrusted with but is never quite sure if she is doing the right thing.
    There is no clear-cut, happy ending. We don't know for sure what will happen to any of the girls after sharing this experience. Sadly, the realistic conclusion is, at best, a very hard life for the two sisters and a lifetime of wondering and doubt for the friend that never spoke up. Harsh material, but, in this day and age, this is certainly a book young teens and mature pre-teens should read. Their parents should read it as well, and then open up a dialogue about the subject material. Burying your head in the sand will not protect your child. Prevention is always best, and some times it may be as simple as having educated yourself and your children to the dangers of this world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2005

    A masterpiece!

    This book was awesome! The issues the author deals with(racism, abandonment, abuse) are real and poignantly stated, but not gory or overdone. The characters are brilliantly portrayed. Thumbs way up 4 Jacqueline Woodson.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2005

    The best

    i love this book. it is the best book I ever read and I can read it 100 trillonbillion times if i could.I love this book.It will keep the reader interested at all times.ever body should read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2005

    ITS WAS SO EMOTIONAL

    When i read this story and once i finished it i only felt i tear come out my eyes.I thought i was one of the best books i have ever read.At the same time it was so sad.I read it a long time ago and i'm still talkng about it,thats how good it was!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2003

    Hollar

    i thought that this book was soo amazing and exciting but also very emotional.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2000

    COLOR OF FRIENDSHIP

    I Hadn't Mean't To Tell You This is one of the best books I ever read.Jacqueline Woodson did a terrific job on the novel.The main 2 characters are Marie who is black and Lena who is white.Lena moves into an all black neighborhood and becomes friends with marie. They have one thing in common,they both lost their moms.I give the book 2 thumbs up.

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    Posted January 16, 2009

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    Posted May 12, 2010

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    Posted June 4, 2010

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    Posted August 5, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

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