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I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This (I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This #1)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,052 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
In this Coretta Scott King Honor Book, 12 year old Marie is African American. She befriends Lena, a white girl, because both have lost their mothers. Lena has a terrifying secret, and Marie must decide if she can help Lena more by keeping her secret--or..
Hardcover, 114 pages
Published November 11th 2010 by Perfection Learning (first published 1994)
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Dec 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Twelve-year-old Marie is one of the popular girls in the prosperous black suburb. She is 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 about her father. Marie wants to help, but Lena don't want her to.
Apr 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With all the fine reviews of this little jewel, what else is there to say but: "We're all just people here." A beautiful quote, a beautiful theme. There is some very un-beautiful material, but the characters who slog through it are worth getting to know.

Thanks for reading.
Marcy Morgan
Jun 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This
By Jacqueline Woodson
1994 Delacorte Press
ISBN: 0385320310
Genre: Realistic fiction
Level: Middle grades and high school
Awards: Coretta Scott King Honor, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, ALA Notable Book, Booklist Editor's Choice, Horn Book Fanfare

Meet Marie, popular and well-dressed in her suburban, predominately black town of Chauncey, Ohio. Enter stage left, Lena, a girl unlike the rest at school. First of all, she is white. Second, she is poor, labeled "whitetrash"
3 soft snickerdoodles.

Cover Love: No, but I saw there were several editions of this book and many other great covers.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
My library has a bunch of Jacqueline Woodson books and I keep meaning to read some of them. I saw mention of this one in an article so I went to my shelves right then and checked it out.

Romance?: No

My Thoughts:
You know, when I, as an adult, hear a story about a kid keeping a monumental secret I can't help but wonder "why didn't they say anything?" But I
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story follows Lena and Marie, with Marie coming from a upper-middle class, educated black family. Lena is termed white trash, and is sexually abused by her father. The two live in a very racist neighborhood but are able to form a very close friendship despite this. Lena's mother has died, and Marie's mother has left her family, so both are without a mother. Eventually Lena leaves with her little sister and Marie is just left with the memory and influence of Lena. She is chan
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
This book hurt. Like, legitimately hurt. When a book this short hits you this hard, you know you've got a good author. I almost with it were longer, I need to know what happens to Lena and Dion now!
Teneya Perkins
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
maria is the only black girl in 8th grade willing to be friends with this white girl lena. So they become really close and that's when Lena tell maria about the stuff her dad try to do in private.
Julia McCane-Knox
Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trc2015
This novella is a wonderfully realistic treasure, which discusses many aspects of life in Chauncey, Ohio during the 1990s, including racial inequality, social status, loss, abuse, friendship, family, health, and happiness. These themes weave the novel's characters together, forming an unlikely friendship between two young ladies. This bond presents questions to the social norms of the area and deepens one's thoughts, such as the portion where one of the girl's states, "s'cuse me while I kiss the ...more

Originally I had ranked this as 4 stars but after thinking about it for a bit, I'd prefer to give it 3. This was assigned for a masters course I am in and I was excited to see that it took place in Chauncey Ohio as I went to school at Ohio University, where Marie's father is a professor. Nicely written, I think this book comes up short in a multitude of areas, leaving the reader asking so many questions that it becomes a frustration, as opposed to a marker of a "good book."

I didn't feel partic
Woodson's novel, though short and sweet, says enough without saying too much, almost like the title itself.

Thirteen year-old Marie has grown up pretty lucky, living as a black girl in the affluent part of her small town in Ohio with her civil rights activist father who teaches at the local university. She knows she'll grow up and go to college, she has a roof over her head and a dad that loves her. But she deals silently with the empty space her mother's departure left. Her wor
M.A. Nichols
Though one of the core themes in this book is abuse, the story really isn't about it. It really is more about social tension between races and economic divides. It follows these two girls from different backgrounds as they become good friends. It is an interesting take on race relations, as both girls are raised by racist fathers who teach them to hate the other.

It's a touching story and beautifully written, but I had a major issue with it. It's written in a first-person POV from Marie's perspec
Dec 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This is told from the perspective of a well-off black girl named Marie. Her mom left her and her dad years before, so Marie is just raised by her dad. One day in school, she meets white-trash Lena. At first, Marie doesn't like Lena, but eventually they become very good friends. Marie eventually finds out that Lena's dad is sexually abusing her, but Lena makes Marie swear not to tell. Marie struggles with this, but at the same time,
Kathie Jackson
Woodson brings us an unconventional tale of middle schoolers experiencing racism, subtle and otherwise, in an Ohio town where the black folks are well-to-do and the whites live in the fringes on the wrong side of the tracks. It's a breezy, quick read, opening with a short history lesson helping us to see how this unusual situation came about and why in the 1990s so many blacks in town still did not trust their white neighbors and classmates. Her protagonists Lena and Marie develop a deep bond ov ...more
Well, for better or worse, Jacqueline Woodson has a signature style; minimalism. I noticed it when I read Feathers. I still remember finishing the last page and thinking my copy of the book was damaged and the last 1/3 must have fallen out. I felt that way with this book too. I enjoyed what was there, but there wasn't enough of it. It, like Feathers, just abruptly ends. It must be intentional, these shallow dive books. I'm not sure what the intention is, but it's apparently the style she's stick ...more
Rosanna (The Hopeless Romantic Bookworm)
A short story that packs an emotional punch. The amazing Jacqueline Woodson has done it again. This story goes against the norm, is heartbreaking at times, and makes you think about the state of the world around you.

Favorite quote: "We're all just people here."
Marcia Campbell
Woodson, Jacqueline. I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This. New York: Speak, 2006

Target Audience: 15-18 year-olds

The story takes place in Chauncey Ohio, originally a coal-mining coal, inhabited primarily by poor whites. When people started getting chronically ill, and the coal diminished, the residents moved out leaving an uninhabited, abandoned neighborhood. When the government decided to sell much of the land, African Americans moved in and the place was designated an all-black suburb. Soon the town
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book although it was bittersweet. It is mostly a story of friendship for tweens (young adults), although it deals with some heavier issues such as racism, alcoholism and incest (dealt with delicately). Mostly it tells how important friendship is at the age of 12-14, how love is better than hate even if you pay a price for it, and the importance of family. Woodson is a wonderful writer and I hope to read more of her books soon.
Cassidy Bowen
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While short (a novella), this book was both heartbreaking and heartwarming (is that possible?) in the best and worst ways. For anyone looking for a quick but still deep and enriching read, I recommend this book!

That was stupid lol
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s-ya
Jacqueline Woodson is the best. And I knew this already, but was blown away again by her skill when I read this seemingly simple, subtle, complex, beautiful book. Highly recommend, if you're into reading books for young people.
A powerful short read which deals with racism, the loss of a parent, sexual abuse, and judging others based on their appearance. Although it deals with sexual abuse, it does it in a way that isn't very graphic.
LaTrice McNeil-Smith
Jacqueline is one my favorite writers ever. She captures my attention so easily with her words. This is such a realistic and sad story. Never underestimate how much you can learn from a child's book.
Tina Seals
Short, quick read.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essential. Real. I found myself wishing in the beginning that the responses to hurt had been written differently, but quickly began to appreciate how real these responses are, authentic instead of idealistic. These interactions between two young women are the bare bones of every interaction in our lifetime. The circumstances and situations may change but how we are effected, how we feel, how we respond does not change so much as we grow older. I am utterly in love with Jacqueline Woodson.
Nov 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adolescent girls
Genre/Category: Friendship/Incest/Racism

Woodson’s simple writing style and captivating characters make this novel a pleasant, but thought-provoking story about friendship and family relationships. Marie lives in Athens, Ohio and attends a school where the majority of the students, including herself, are African American. The few white students are looked down on and mostly ignored by the African American students. Marie lives alone with her father because her mother recently walked out on them.
Dec 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hadn't meant to tell you this by Jacqueline Woodson is told in 3rd person. Marie is a black girl and Lena is a white girl. Marie dresses nice and preppy because she's rich, while Lena dresses raggedy because she's poor. Nobody wouldv'e thought they would ever be friends because of their race.But Lena has a secret she has never told anyone until she tells first Marie doesn't believe her because she thinks she just said that so she could feel soory for Lena. When she finally learns ...more
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young Adults
Recommended to Danielle by: College Literacy Class
Shelves: fiction
Summary I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This by Jacqueline Woodson (2010)

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’
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult

I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This is a unique story. Marie, is a young black girl living in a rich all-black community because blacks must “stay together” and they are not welcomed in white communities. There are always some ‘white trash’ people, but no one like Lena. Marie’s mom walked out on her father and her to go find herself on adventures around the world. Lena’s mom died of breast cancer. They each have lost their moms and are holding onto secrets. Lena has a terrifying se
Ryan Palmer
Jan 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-420
7th grader Marie goes to Junior High in Chauncy West Virginia. The town was once a mining town, full of white citizens, but after the mining was closed, many of the residents abandoned it. Later, black families began to move in looking for a suburb that will allow for a commute to work. She is struggling because her mother has left the family, traveling to many exotic foreign places in order to find herself after inheriting a large sum of money from her parents. Her mom occasio
Dec 01, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: engl-420
This book is about the friendship struck between two motherless girls from vastly different circumstance and socio-economic backgrounds. When "whitetrash" Lena starts Marie's school, Marie expects to be able to ignore her the way she ignores all the other poor white students, but upon finding out that Lena is also a motherless girl, a bond of friendship is struck between them--and as with all friends, secrets are traded between them. Marie finds out that Lena's father
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I used to say I’d be a teacher or a lawyer or a hairdresser when I grew up but even as I said these things, I knew what made me happiest was writing.

I wrote on everything and everywhere. I remember my uncle catching me writing my name in graffiti on the side of a building. (It was not pretty for me when my mother found out.) I wrote on paper bags and my shoes and denim binders. I chalked stories a
More about Jacqueline Woodson...

Other Books in the Series

I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This (2 books)
  • Lena
“When I took these things from the house:
some tapes, some books, my winter clothes,
I did not know that these would become the
things I own.”
More quotes…