Friday, June 26, 2020

REVIEW: If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Title: If You Come Softly
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Release Date: September 28, 1998
Acquired: Purchased for my collection
Goodreads: ADD

A lyrical story of star-crossed love perfect for readers of The Hate U Give, by National Ambassador for Children's Literature Jacqueline Woodson—now celebrating its twentieth anniversary, and including a new preface by the author

Jeremiah feels good inside his own skin. That is, when he's in his own Brooklyn neighborhood. But now he's going to be attending a fancy prep school in Manhattan, and black teenage boys don't exactly fit in there. So it's a surprise when he meets Ellie the first week of school. In one frozen moment their eyes lock, and after that they know they fit together—even though she's Jewish and he's black. Their worlds are so different, but to them that's not what matters. Too bad the rest of the world has to get in their way.

Without even meaning to, I read this book in one sitting on my library floor. So many of you who have read this narrative can understand exactly why I couldn't stop. The fact that I picked this up in June of 2020 is extremely important to note, simply because of the unfortunate relevance it's contents has more than 20 years later. I hate that I can draw parallels to our current state of the world, I HATE that that it's not even a current state, that it's BEEN a state for over 400 years. My heart is so heavy, but I am so happy I discovered this book.

Jeremiah (Miah) has just started at Percy, a private school that his famous producer father insisted that he attend. As one of the only few Black students in the body, he can't help but feel different and separate from his peers. When he (literally) bumps into Ellie, a white Jewish girl, in the hall one day, his entire world is changed; his outlook on life brightened. The two quickly fall in love, and the days become a blur; their time spent together never enough. They see the stares, and acknowledge the disapproval of an ignorant world, but that doesn't stop them, and it doesn't deter Ellie from wanting to introduce Miah to her parents. The universe however, seems to have other plans.

I am destroyed. Both by the extreme relevance of this narrative so many years later, and by the words that Woodson has now seared forever on my heart. This was a love story, yes, but it was also a story of acceptance, and questioning, and the constant battle between the two. It was about a girl, who's connection to a boy helped her see the world for what it was. And that boy, who had been taught that the world would always see him that way. Woodson didn't need to write anything longer than the 181 pages she wrote here, this book was powerful in it's message, and poignant in it's heartbreak. I can't wait to read the follow-up!

Read if you like:
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
A Good Neighborhood by Anne Therese Fowler

Key themes: 
love, family, racial profiling, coming-of-age, acceptance, interracial relationship 


credit: goodreads author page

CLICK HERE to read more about Jacqueline on her website's Biography page. There's also an amazing Ted Talk!




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