Walk Softly, Rachel

Overview

Fourteen-year-old Rachel remembers little about her brother, Jake, except that he died in a car accident when she was seven and he was seventeen. Her parents rarely talk about him, but his presence in the family can be felt and his room has been left untouched. It's by means of Jake's journal that Rachel begins to know her brother and learns that his death was a suicide. With candor and humor, Rachel filters Jake's anguished journal entries through her own experiences – her relationship with her parents and ...

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Overview

Fourteen-year-old Rachel remembers little about her brother, Jake, except that he died in a car accident when she was seven and he was seventeen. Her parents rarely talk about him, but his presence in the family can be felt and his room has been left untouched. It's by means of Jake's journal that Rachel begins to know her brother and learns that his death was a suicide. With candor and humor, Rachel filters Jake's anguished journal entries through her own experiences – her relationship with her parents and grandmother; the departure of her best friend, Adrian; and her growing involvement with the likable son of family friends who may be as troubled as Jake. In unraveling her family's secret and examining her own shortcomings, Rachel gains sympathy for her parents, realizing that they are all survivors.

Kate Banks explores inner lives with exquisite sensitivity and precision. Sometimes funny, often sad, but painfully true, Walk Softly, Rachel is a story of love, loss, and letting go.

When fourteen-year-old Rachel reads the journal of her brother, who died when she was seven, she learns secrets that help her understand her parents and herself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Pensive, emotionally layered, filled with private grief, Rachel's obsession with Jake becomes her release...Absorbing, powerful, remarkable." --Starred, Kirkus Reviews

"Deftly intertwining poetic excerpts from the diary with Rachel's reflections, the author draws a poignant, painfully honest sketch of a family bearing invisible scars." --Starred, Publishers Weekly

"As in Dillon Dillon (Farrar, 2002), family relationships and love among the living lead to personal growth and a hopeful ending...its effect on the ear and heart is remarkable." --Starred, School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
Banks's (Dillon, Dillon) mesmerizing prose draws readers into the world of 14-year-old Rachel as she struggles to understand the repercussions of a family tragedy. It has been seven years since her older brother, Jake, died at age 17, but only now does Rachel find his journal. Deftly intertwining poetic excerpts from the diary with Rachel's reflections, the author draws a poignant, painfully honest sketch of a family bearing invisible scars. Reasons for the characters' idiosyncrasies-Rachel's mother's obsession with finding a new house, her father's tendency to joke about serious things, and Rachel's habit of laughing when she's sad and crying when she's amused-gradually come to the surface as Rachel makes connections between Jake's death and the present state of her family. At the same time readers become intimately acquainted with Rachel, they also come to know Jake, a sensitive, highly intelligent boy trapped by his emotions ("Once there was a boy named Jake. Some people are born with too many fingers or too much hair. Jake was born with too many feelings," Jake writes). Sensitively revealing the mystery of Jake's death, the author leaves it to the audience to judge what doomed Jake and what marks his sister as a survivor. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Rachel was seven when her brother Jake died in a car accident. Now that she is fourteen, Rachel is much more curious about this perfect brother she doesn't really remember. Since his room has never been changed, Rachel doesn't have to go far to discover some new information. As Rachel struggles with her best friend moving far away and befriending a troubled family friend, her brother's journal provides some help. The story is told both from Rachel's perspective and the words in Jake's journal. The story shows how deeply a family death can affect people, even seven years later. The ending is excellent, as Rachel discovers something she had never expected to learn about her brother. Even though Rachel is fourteen-years-old, Banks does not explore any adult themes, making this an excellent read for a mature young child. 2003, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus and Giroux, Ages 8 to 12.
— Caroline Haugen
VOYA
Fourteen-year-old Rachel's best friend has just moved away, leaving her feeling alone and vulnerable. She worries about these thoughts and about other normal teenage problems, such as not feeling connected to her parents and her attraction to an older boy. Rachel, nicknamed "Rachel Three," also has other problems that are not as normal-she laughs when she wants to cry, and she cries when she means to laugh, even when thinking about her brother. Although Rachel's older brother, Jake, has been dead for seven years, his room has been left untouched and unused. Rachel remembers little about him because she was only seven when he died, but as a teenager she finds herself drawn to his room and his memory. When her mother ("Rachel Two") balks at her suggestion that Rachel's grandmother ("Rachel One") move into Jake's old room, Rachel is determined to find out why. She investigates Jake's room, finds his journal, and discovers the secrets behind his tragic death. The author juxtaposes Jake's journal entries with Rachel's narration, clearly showing how events in the journal mirror Rachel's new adolescent experiences. While reading his thoughts and discovering his hidden feelings, she not only learns about the brother she never knew, but she also realizes that there is more to her parents than she first thought. Banks draws a convincing picture of a family in a crisis, each member dealing with the pain alone but brought together in the end by the truth behind the tragedy. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux,149p., $16. Ages 11 to 15.
—Jennifer McIntosh
From The Critics
Do you ever think about death? Rachel does. The 14-year-old was 7 when her brother, Jake, died. She never really knew him, but she gets the chance when she finds his journal. For three weeks, the time it takes her to read the journal, she grows alongside her brother. She learns about losses and loneliness, failure and frustration, pain and pressure, shame and sadness. She learns all the things that matter. But what is more, Rachel learns what is behind a smile and how to not just look backward, but forward, as well. Rachel has lost a brother and a best friend; she is about to lose another best friend and a home. She has suffered, but she will heal. She has a grandmother full of advice and a mother and father who are just as capable of making mistakes as she. So life is not about running away, it is about breathing, changing, and starting over. Rachel will let go and say goodbye, but she will also continue to wish for the impossible. With her novel, Kate Banks reminds readers that they are not alone. She gives them reassurance when others may not. You are normal, she tells them, and you do not have to walk softly. 2003, Frances Foster Books, 160 pp. Ages young adult. Reviewer: Kristian Winston
KLIATT
Rachel lives, but her older brother is dead. Jake died when Rachel was a little girl and he was a teenager. She doesn't know much about him, really, until she finds his journals. Rachel is 14 years old now, and is disturbed by her parents' talk of moving to a new house. Her beloved grandmother is getting older and may come to live with them. Her father is a doctor; her mother is a judge. You would think their professions would have helped them deal with the death of their son, but instead they are haunted by the knowledge they couldn't save his life. Rachel learns gradually through the journals (part of this novel) that Jake was quite disturbed about something; he was exceedingly self-critical, really. And we don't know exactly why, but can guess he was frightened by his love for his best friend, another boy, and perhaps feared he was gay. On the last journal pages, we (and Rachel) learn that Jake committed suicide. There is another troubled young man in this novel: Bowman, a senior in high school. Bowman turns to Rachel for friendship, but she really doesn't know how to deal with his fascination with fire and his rage. These are all privileged young people, from families who have money, with promise of the best educations possible and any careers they want. Yet they all share adolescent angst, perhaps more so since they have been given so many opportunities. Who can understand? Rachel tries to, as do her parents. Banks (author of Dillon, Dillon) has chosen to use Rachel as the narrator in the present tense, which puts the reader there beside Rachel. "Bowman and I walk into town. His footsteps move in unison with mine. They slap the sidewalk at the same time mine do, and that makes mefeel good." Jake's journal is also in the present tense, which helps Rachel get near to him and his feelings. KLIATT Codes: JS; Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 149p.,
— Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 7-9-Rachel finds her beloved older brother's journal and discovers that his death seven years earlier was a suicide. Family dynamics and unspoken feelings are at the heart of this poetically told, emotionally charged story. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"I used to have a brother," begins Rachel, 14, as she tells her story and that of her dead older brother, having found his journal. The family has not recovered from Jake's death seven years ago; Rachel suppresses her aches, her chief surgeon father covers up with jokes, and her judge mother escapes to her gardening. Reading Jake's journal is the only way Rachel can get to know him and eventually say goodbye. Jake's emotions are those of a tormented teen, raw, questioning why he isn't perfect like his parents, and thinking about death. Eerily, Jake's thoughts echo things in Rachel's life and weave into her memories. The more intense the entry, the more Rachel focuses on life, not death. A town Bread Festival and a new, but troubled friend play roles in the impending tragic discovery. Pensive, emotionally layered, filled with private grief, Rachel's obsession with Jake becomes her release, understanding that hearts and spirits mend like broken bones, that you can't run away from the past, and that forgiving means letting go. Absorbing, powerful, remarkable. (Fiction. 11-15)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374382308
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/9/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 510L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate Banks is the author of Dillon Dillon and many award-winning picture books, including And If the Moon Could Talk, a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner; The Night Worker, winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award; and The Bird, the Monkey, and the Snake in the Jungle. She lives in France.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2008

    The Secret About Jake

    What really happened to Jake? That¿s the question Rachel ask herself everyday she walks past his empty room. Every time she had ask her parents about what really happened they had told her that Jake ,her older brother, had died in a tragic car accident but Rachel knew there was more to the story then what her parent had been telling her. She just knew. Sometimes when she asked her parents would even seem nervous or get a little fidgety. So one day Rachel decided to take matters into her own hands she walked into Jakes room and found an old journal, this is how Rachel began to discover out the truth behind her parents lies. This is how she began to figure out how Jake really died. This book was in ways interesting. I liked how the author put Jakes journal entries in the story. I also liked how Jakes character was portrayed. A couple of dislikes I had about this book was that it was easy to predict what was going to happen. I also didn¿t like how the book was a little too easy to read. It didn¿t grab my attention very well. I would recommend this book to boys and girls between the ages of eleven and thirteen. I do recommend this book to readers that enjoy book about grief, death, and loosing someone. This book is not part of a series so there are no worries about having to read any previous books. A book that is kind of similar to this one is, Perfect. This is a book about a young girl who looses her dad unexpectedly and copes with it in a harmful way. This book is by Natasha Friend. Another large set of books similar to this type is all of the books by Lurlene McDaniel. All of her books have to do with death and grief she is also a great author and writes enjoyable books. So what really happened to Jake? Well, that¿s for you to find out!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2007

    walk softly into a book of wounders

    I liked this book because it had alot of details in it. And the bookmade you want to keep reading it and not put it down. the book did not have alot of run on sentences.The book was a bit sad but I liked when rachel went into her older brothers room and she found a journal,that she hasn't seen before. It also tells about what she had never known before. It was very very interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2004

    Great Book

    I really loved this book. I think that the idea that Rachel found her deceased brother's journal and discovering how much he went through was really heartbreaking. It made me really think deeply about life, so I took a walk outside for a while and it really made me think and inspire me to love life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2004

    Good for Grief

    This is a well-written story about a fourteen-year-old girls journey to learn about herself and her brother. She reads her brother's journal as she goes through her own life situations. I liked how the author inserted parts of Jake's journal into Rachel's narrative. The end is heart-breaking for Rachel but, luckily, you can see how she will come out of it in the end. There is hope for healing within the family. This is a good book for dealing with death. It shows the reaction to Jake's death from Rachels point of view along with a friend of the family, her mother, her father, and grandmother. Jake's death affects everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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