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Walk Softly, Rachel    by Kate Banks order for
Walk Softly, Rachel
by Kate Banks
Order:  USA  Can
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Rachel's brother Jake died seven years before the story opens. Fourteen-year-old Rachel doesn't remember him very well, and her parents avoid a subject they find difficult to discuss. When Rachel's best friend moves away, she becomes very depressed and visits Jake's room to try to sort out her feelings. There she finds his journal and reads it in bits and pieces over the next few months. Rachel comes to understand that Jake's life was troubled, although everything appeared perfect from the outside. As she learns to cope with growing up, making new friends, and the possibility of moving, she sees Jake's writing through maturing eyes. Will Rachel be able to handle what she discovers about Jake and about herself?

The title, Walk Softly, Rachel, comes from a phrase Rachel's mother used to repeat when a small Rachel played while her older brother was trying to study. The reader can identify with the way in which the grief of losing Jake has affected each family member differently. Rachel, in particular, is curious about Jake's life and death, yet afraid of causing her parents more pain by asking questions. Teens will be able to put themselves into Rachel's shoes and empathize with what she is experiencing emotionally. Even with the deeper message, it's interesting to peek over Rachel's shoulder and read Jake's journal, to share his sister's glimpses into his inner thoughts and secrets.

Kate Banks lives in France, and her writing reflects that influence. Walk Softly, Rachel deals with some tough issues. It takes an insightful look at growing up, and learning how to cope with tragedy as well as living life each day.

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