Behind You by Jacqueline Woodson, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Behind You

Behind You

4.4 14
by Jacqueline Woodson

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A moving story of love and loss from a three-time Newbery winning author

You are so light you move with the wind and the snow. . . . And it lifts you up-over a world of sadness and anger and fear. Over a world of first kisses and hands touching and someone you're falling in love with. She's there now. Right there. . . .

Miah and Ellie were in love


A moving story of love and loss from a three-time Newbery winning author

You are so light you move with the wind and the snow. . . . And it lifts you up-over a world of sadness and anger and fear. Over a world of first kisses and hands touching and someone you're falling in love with. She's there now. Right there. . . .

Miah and Ellie were in love. Even though Miah was black and Ellie was white, they made sense together. Then Miah was killed. This was the ending.

And it was the beginning of grief for the many people who loved Miah. Now his mother has stopped trying, his friends are lost and Ellie doesn't know how to move on. And there is Miah, watching all of this&150unable to let go.

How do we go on after losing someone we love? This is the question the living and the dead are asking.

With the help of each other, the living will come together. Miah will sit beside them. They will feel Miah in the wind, see him in the light, hear him in their music. And Miah will watch over them, until he is sure each of those he loved is all right.

This beautiful sequel to Jacqueline Woodson's If You Come Softly explores the experiences of those left behind after tragedy. It is a novel in which through hope, understanding and love, healing begins.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Miah and Ellie share the tender, innocent love of the young and uninitiated. They have not yet been fully exposed to the prejudices faced by most bi-racial couples. Born into homes of influence as well as affluence, they first meet as students at the exclusive Percy Academy in New York City. What ought to be the tale of a growing friendship full of promise will never be realized in the expected way, though. An opening monologue by "Jeremiah" alerts the reader that this is a different kind of story. "You do not die. Your soul steps out of your body, shakes itself hard...looks down on the blood running onto concrete, your eyes snapped open like the pages in some kid's forgotten picture book." A fifteen-year-old is dead at the hands of a policeman simply because he is the wrong color in the wrong place. This might be considered a cautionary tale, but not in the usual sense. Death may not be what it seems. "Everything in the world's just a little bit deeper than you seeing it." Award-winning Jacqueline Woodson uses the vehicle of language to take the reader on a surprising journey of hope. As she calls on individual players to narrate each chapter, she creates a masterful conversation with the soul. Fortunate is the reader who continues turning pages, letting the reflective beauty of Miah and his loved ones filter through. Books with painful subject matter rarely leave the reader longing for more. This one does. 2004, GP Putnam's Sons, Ages 14 up.
—Francine Thomas
In a deftly constructed series of first-person reactions and reflections, Woodson reaches back to the events of If You Come Softly (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1998/VOYA December 1998) and explores the grieving and process of moving on for both the mistakenly killed Jeremiah as well as for his family, friends, and white, Jewish girlfriend. Even though his grandmother's spirit encourages Jeremiah to enter completely the spirit world, he tries to communicate love—his unfinished business—to those left behind who must fully reenter the living world. His mother, who stopped writing when her husband left her, eventually starts her next novel with a ghost as the main character. His father revisits his ex-wife, this time as a friend. Jeremiah's good friend, a talented athlete, publicly declares his homosexuality, and Ellie, with whom Jeremiah shared a short but intense romance, decides that Jeremiah's neighborhood, friends, and family give her insight to her own issue-ridden, seemingly hypocritical family. Even Jeremiah's basketball team regroups and learns to win without its star. This brief novel emphasizes how personal attitudes and actions and not laws alone can combat social injustice and intolerance. Consequently it has a more limited audience and a little less personal impact than Woodson's Miracle's Boys (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2000/VOYA April 2000), a Coretta Scott King Award winner. The powerful but subtle handling of multiple themes and multifaceted characters requires mature and insightful readers who can grasp that unfortunately tragic events can be necessary catalysts for personal inventory and positive change. VOYA Codes 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasionallapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 128p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Lucy Schall
Jeremiah Roselind is dead at fifteen years old. Miah, as he is affectionately called by most, was shot and killed by two white cops--a case of mistaken identity. The spirit of Miah whistles through loved ones trying to make sense of his death and their lives as they see them now. Ellie was Miah's white girlfriend. She hurts the most and is trying to overcome the pain of losing her soul mate. Miah is trying to make sense of his death, too, and how to embrace his new role in the afterlife. Woodson reveals the thoughts and personalities of her characters in miniature time capsules. She allows the reader to uncover who Miah was through the characters' actions and their feelings about him. Woodson captures the present world, along with the afterlife, and creatively allows the reader to experience bereavement in both. She touches on social taboos such as homosexuality and interracial dating, while also showing the many facets of grief. A well written novel, Behind You is both thought-provoking and heartwarming. 2004, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 118 pp., Ages young adult.
—Jeron Shelton
In If You Come Softly (an ALA Best Book for YAs, reviewed in KLIATT in January 1999), Woodson sensitively chronicles the relationship between Ellie, a white girl, and Jeremiah, an African American boy, who fall in love and must deal with family issues and racism. Tragedy strikes when Jeremiah, running home through Central Park, is mistaken for a criminal and accidentally shot to death by police. Behind You picks up the story after Jeremiah's death, with his spirit looking down on those he loved. In alternating chapters, Jeremiah, his parents, his grandmother, his friends, and Ellie express their feelings about his death, grieve, make new connections, and try to move on while keeping his memory alive. Love and sadness permeate the pages of this brief, beautifully written novel, but there is a feeling of hope at the end. For all those who were moved by If You Come Softly, this will supply a lovely coda. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2004, Penguin Putnam, 176p., Ages 12 to 15.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 8-10-In this poignant, stand-alone sequel to the wrenching romance, If You Come Softly (Putnam, 1998), Woodson's characters are dealing with grief and picking up the pieces of their lives after the death of 15-year-old Jeremiah (Miah) Roselind. The impact of their loss is revealed through the alternating voices of his white girlfriend, Ellie; basketball teammate, Kennedy; childhood friend, Carlton; and his separated parents. As a year passes and these characters take "a step deeper into their world-. The world they're learning to live in without you," Miah's spiritual voice searches for a final, parting moment to whisper that they are loved so that they can move on into their own futures. With tenderness and compassion, the author exposes the characters' vulnerabilities and offers the hope that they will emerge and grow from this tragic loss. Although the voices are distinct, a quiet, reflective tone pervades the story. Interestingly, each character opens up and changes in some way except Ellie's parents, who espouse liberal views but never accepted their daughter's African-American boyfriend or his friends. Readers who savor tough reality stories as much as happy endings will appreciate this thought-provoking, satisfying novel that offers hope but no easy answers.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sequel to Woodson's If You Come Softly (1998), in which Miah was mistakenly shot to death by police. Each of Miah's friends and family, especially his girlfriend Ellie and mother Nelia, are isolated in grief. Miah himself is a shadow in the afterworld (and the story). His dead grandmother urges him to enjoy the pleasant afterlife, as she does, but he can't let go of the people he left behind while they are hollowed by mourning. By end, they have been knit together, doubtless by Miah, in such a way that they find strength in their unity-an ability to survive together. Nelia will resume writing. Ellie has made connections with Miah's friends. Miah is ready to continue without them towards his own new world. Written with Woodson's characteristic focus on telling detail (the buttery quality of light in a kitchen), this is a tender, existential meditation on grief, interior in nature that will nevertheless touch readers who enjoyed (and wept over) the first. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)
HL720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Woodson ( is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir BROWN GIRL DREAMING, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, the NAACP Image Award and the Sibert Honor Award. Woodson was recently named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. Born on February 12th in Columbus, Ohio, Jacqueline Woodson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York and graduated from college with a B.A. in English. She is the author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a three-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. Her books  include THE OTHER SIDE, EACH KINDNESS, Caldecott Honor Book COMING ON HOME SOON; Newbery Honor winners FEATHERS, SHOW WAY, and AFTER TUPAC AND D FOSTER, and MIRACLE'S BOYS—which received the LA Times Book Prize and the Coretta Scott King Award and was adapted into a miniseries directed by Spike Lee. Jacqueline is also the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young adult literature, the winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and was the 2013 United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

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