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If You Come Softly

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Overview

A heartbreaking contemporary romance from a three-time Newbery Honor winning 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 ...

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Overview

A heartbreaking contemporary romance from a three-time Newbery Honor winning 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. Reviewers have called Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson's work "exceptional" (Publishers Weekly) and "wrenchingly honest" (School Library Journal), and have said "it offers a perspective on racism and elitism rarely found in fiction for this age group" (Publishers Weekly). In If You Come Softly, she delivers a powerful story of interracial love that leaves readers wondering "why" and "if only...."

After meeting at their private school in New York, fifteen-year-old Jeremiah, who is black and whose parents are separated, and Ellie, who is white and whose mother has twice abandoned her, fall in love and then try to cope with people's reactions.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Once again, Woodson (I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This) handles delicate, even explosive subject matter with exceptional clarity, surety and depth. In this contemporary story about an interracial romance, she seems to slip effortlessly into the skins of both her main characters, Ellie, an upper-middle-class white girl who has just transferred to Percy, an elite New York City prep school, and Jeremiah, one of her few African American classmates, whose parents (a movie producer and a famous writer) have just separated. A prologue intimates heartbreak to come; thereafter, sequences alternate between Ellie's first-person narration and a third-person telling that focuses on Jeremiah. Both voices convincingly describe the couple's love-at-first-sight meeting and the gradual building of their trust. The intensity of their emotions will make hearts flutter, then ache as evidence mounts that Ellie's and Jeremiah's "perfect" love exists in a deeply flawed society. Even as Woodson's lyrical prose draws the audience into the tenderness of young love, her perceptive comments about race and racism will strike a chord with black readers and open the eyes of white readers ("Thing about white people," Jeremiah's father tells him, "they know what everybody else is, but they don't know they're white"). Knowing from the beginning that tragedy lies just around the corner doesn't soften the sharp impact of this wrenching book. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
VOYA - Alison Kastner
For Ellie and Jeremiah it is love at first sight in this understated love story. Though the couple comes from different backgrounds, both have strange home lives. After his parents' divorce, Jeremiah's dad moved across the street and Jeremiah now spends his time going between his mother's and father's apartments. Ellie lives in a very large apartment with her mother and father, and they all seem to inhabit separate corners of a space that once housed a large family. Ellie's relationship with her mother, who has left the family twice, is strained. Estranged from both their families, Ellie and Jeremiah become the perfect couple, providing the security and love that they feel is lacking at home. Of course there is a complication: Ellie is white and Jeremiah is black. Ellie thinks that racism is a thing of the past, until she is heartbroken to discover that her favorite sister is racist. The couple is also surprised when they face hostility from perfect strangers, but they persevere and their relationship blossoms. This sweet story is filled with a sense of foreboding. In fact, Jeremiah is shot by a police officer who mistakes him for a crime suspect. In truth, Jeremiah is shot because he is an African American who is running (dribbling his basketball) after dark. While such incidents are all too common, this reader found herself wishing that Woodson had ended on a more optimistic note-the "happily-ever-after" ending is not always the predictable one-and wanted to know if Jeremiah and Ellie could have endured in the face of so much opposition. One positive note: Ellie forms a relationship with Jeremiah's mother and together they mourn their loss. The gentle and melancholy tone of this book makes it ideal for thoughtful readers and fans of romance. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
KLIATT
To quote KLIATT's Jan. 1999 review of the hardcover edition: Woodson, author of the acclaimed From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun and other YA novels, once again tackles issues of bigotry and family in this poignant story about a tragic romance. Fifteen-year-old Jeremiah (called Miah) lives in a comfortable black neighborhood in Brooklyn, alternating between the homes of his separated parents and disturbed about their upcoming divorce. His father is a famous filmmaker and his mother is a renowned novelist, and Miah's father has convinced him that attending a fancy prep school in Manhattan would be a good idea. There Miah meets Ellie, a white, Jewish girl who's also new to the school. Ellie comes from a privileged background too, but her mother has abandoned the family twice and Ellie, the baby of the family and the only one left at home, doesn't trust her to stick around. Miah and Ellie fall deeply in love, and then must cope with the often-negative reactions of others to their interracial relationship, culminating in a terrible accident in Central Park. The title, from a poem by Audre Lorde, invites readers to see the world from Miah's and Ellie's eyes, as they tell their stories in alternating chapters and share their wonder and joy at first love and their conflicted feelings toward their families. Woodson succeeds in letting us into their hearts, and the story is gracefully told. An ALA Best Book for YAs and a BCCB Blue Ribbon Book. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1998, Penguin/Puffin, 184p, 18cm, 97-32212, $4.99. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; July 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 4)
The ALAN Review - Diana Mitchell
15-year-old Jeremiah usually deals with the constant pressure of choosing which of his separated parents to spend time with by losing himself in basketball. But this year is different. His father insists on sending him to a private school so Jeremiah has to deal with being one of only a handful of black students there and one of a few black players on the team. Then he meets Ellie, a Jewish girl at his school. They lock eyes and feel an instant affinity for each other. Told in alternating chapters by Ellie and Jeremiah, this is a gently told story of two teens in a biracial relationship and what happens to them and their families because of the assumptions made about black males in our society. The language is so beautiful and the attention to detail so focused that I felt I had been dropped into their lives and knew them and their families. The tragic ending makes a very strong statement about what its like to be a black male in America and what can happen when stereotypes are the basis for behavior towards others. The powerful message is haunting and I find myself turning the events of the book over and over again in my mind.
Kirkus Reviews
In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence. Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He's the only child of celebrity parents; she's the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father's warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie. Miah's melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson's previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142415221
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 1/7/2010
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 116,429
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: HL570L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

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 now writes full-time and has recently received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Her other awards include a Newbery Honor, two Coretta Scott King awards, two National Book Award finalists, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Although she spends most of her time writing, Woodson also enjoys reading the works of emerging writers and encouraging young people to write, spending time with her friends and her family, and sewing. Jacqueline Woodson currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 121 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(92)

4 Star

(17)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 122 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    Love this book

    This is an amazing book. It really touched me. I strongly recommend this book to any young readers in search of a fantastic read. As a 12-year-old, I cam say this is one of my personal favorites

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Black Boy, White Girl

    Jeremiah Roselind is an intelligent black teenage boy who has to attend a fancy prep school. He bumps into Ellie Eisen, a white girl, in the hallway, and they are immediately attracted to one another. Disapproving glances, whispering voices, snide remarks -it isn't the reactions from other people that tear this young couple apart before their relationship has a real chance to grow, but a tragic event. This is an interesting, well-written story about interracial dating. I was saddened by the ending.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 2, 2000

    Touching Romance

    If You Come Softly in my opinion is the best book I have ever read. It explains a 'true love' and is written beautifully. My friends and I gave it ' 8 thumbs up.'

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Truly Touching

    The book If You Come Softly really touched me. I was bawling like a baby when I finished this book. Thinking about the innocence that was so alive throughout the description of Ellie and Miah's romance gives me the chills. It was an amazing read that really stuck a cord in me, because it was just two people that were in love and the serious things about their romance weren't overpowering and unrealistic but perfectly put in.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted May 20, 2014

    Great

    I may only be 11, but this is, hands down, the best book I have ever read. Jaqueline Woodson made me cry in this wonderful, captivating story of interracial young love. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rank this book 85.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2012

    Best book!

    I loved this book so much. Its is a quick read and worth every second. My copy is ripping apart I have read it so many times. A great book about love and loss. Amazing writing, amazing plot line, an amazing book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2012

    One of my all time favs <3

    I read this book more than 10 years ago when I was a preteen. I loved it! I have lost track of how many times I have read it over the years. I for sure recommend this to young girls!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2011

    Excellent Book!

    If you come softly is a wonderful book which is written by Jacqueline Woodson. This book is about an African American whose name is Jeremiah, who used to go to a public school somewhere in Brooklyn. He is pretty courageous and satisfied about how he is doing so well in basketball. His father is an African American filmmaker, who makes Jeremiah attend a professional private school, which is an All-White School for wealthy kids. His mother is a unique novelist writer. Ellie, who also attends the private school named Percy, is a Strong and is very less trustful to her mother. Her mother had left her and the rest of her family to go to "explore" and also says that she needs to be by herself. Ellie is a little heartbroken who learns to let go of that situation. They both have some sort of problem in their family. Ellie and Jeremiah bump into each other in the Percy Hallway and both of their eyes meet at the same time. They fall in love, instantly. They think that they are both almost close to perfect together. Even though Jeremiah is black and Ellie is white, they don't let that effect their relationship. They don't care what people think and that's what I absolutely like about it. The bad thing is there is a tragic event that happens.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2011

    okay read

    the story was short but it was a good book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Amazing book

    This is probably my favorite book and as an avid reader that's saying a lot. This was such a sad book for a couple of reasons. One being the ridicule miah and ellie receive from people because they aren't the same race. The end of the book absolutely breaks my heart. It was also very well written. Go percy sledge!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2012

    Best book

    So touching

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2012

    Good book but sad

    It was well written but kinda sad. Worth the money

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2012

    Amazing and touching book :)

    This book is the first book I read for summer reading, and I am in love with it. The story itself was so different and inspiring, I couldn't stop reading it. The ending was so sad too... the book is so well written. I definitely reccomend reading this book, especially to teen and preteen girls like me :) definitely read it! It's worth the money.

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  • Posted November 27, 2009

    My review of If You Come Softly

    If you come softly was not the best book i have ever read. it was okay. I understood the interracial concept of the book, but i feel the writing didnt truly and fully captivate the message. A big issue i had with the book was the writing. The author switched first person and third person quit often throught the book, in which made me confused. Another issue was the ending of the book- it didnt make sense. Did Miah die or what? the book is about two young teenagers who falls in love at first site despite the color of their skin. Both Miah and ellie semmed so in love. At the end of the book in chapter 24, both ellie's family and miah's family come together has if Miah died or something. The last few sentence of chapter 23 says "Again, just like that day, Jeremiah felt a sudden, terrible sadness. And the nothing at all." On chapter 26 it reads- "There is a plaque outside the gym at Percy. It reads In Memory of Jeremiah Roselind. Somewhere someone will always be calling your name." What happened to Jeremiah did he kill himself. If he did, it doesnt make sense because why would someone who loves someone with their every being in their body want to end their life. Plus the author doesnt seem to convey Ellie's fellings towards the lost of Jeremiah, if that is what happened. After finishing this novel I anticipated i was left disappointed and confused!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    excellent read

    I would recommend this book to adults and teens. I read this for a YA lit class I am taking for my teaching program. I couldn't put it down. Written in first and third person provides to perspectives of the same story. Book could also be bridged loosely to Romeo and Juliet. Great read for teens to lead to discussions of race, stereotypes, family expectations and identity.

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  • Posted November 24, 2008

    Love & Interracial Relationships

    Miah and Jeremiah. Both teenagers. Miah is Jewish. Jeremiah is black. They meet at their private school in New York. Love at first sight. It brings up the tough question about interracial relationships. I recommend it for those young ones who love romance novels.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2008

    A reviewer

    A great book for sure. Kind of got confused at the end when he saw a sudden light but other than that is was a great book. Kept the tension throughout the book making the reader wish that there was a sequel. Amazing writing strategy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2008

    I really enjoyed it.

    I really liked the book and enjoyed how they made it relate to students my age. I would like to read more books by this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2008

    love

    I love this book it's so interesting it keep's you reading no matter what. It had me up all night.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2008

    Beautiful Book

    'If You Come Softly' is a beautiful story. It follows Ellie, a white girl, and Jeremiah, a black boy, as they meet and fall in love. Their relationship is made complex by outside forces-mostly because of race. I was able to relate to Ellie because she feels the same kind of emotions I do, such as fear, uncertainity, and yet a hope for the future. I loved Jeremiah because he was such a strong,sweet character. He was srong but he also had insecurities. Jacqueline Woodson uses clear, piercing prose that reaches deep inside you. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a little romance but also a read that makes them think and stretch.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 122 Customer Reviews

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