If You Come Softly by Jaqueline Woodson

Title:  If You Come Softly
Author:  Jacqueline Woodson
Release date:  January 1998
Publisher:  Speak
Pages:  208
Genre:  Middle grade fiction
Source:  Library


Ellie, an upper-middle-class Jewish girl has just started attending Percy, a New York City prep school.  On one of her first days there, she runs into Jeremiah, an African-American boy with famous parents.  Over the course of this short novel, they fall in love.  Not puppy love, either – they have the kind of mature love that many adults don’t even get to experience.  But although they are happy with their relationship, they aren’t sure the world is ready for them – including either of their families. If You Come Softly is a great book for young readers to understand some of the complex issues surrounding race today.

It seems like every one of my favorite bloggers absolutely raves about Jacqueline Woodson.  I finally got the chance to pick up one of her books, and If You Come Softly was a great introduction to the beautiful way she writes for young readers.  The relationship between Ellie and Jeremiah was completely believable – it was so much like what I remember from my first love.  Except so many teens don’t know how to have a mature relationship, and these two really did.  They truly cared for each other, they truly appreciated each other, and they would have done anything to stay together.  It was sweet and inspiring.

I am of two minds about this book, though.  Even though I loved the story and the writing and the characters, I hated the end.  The end is meant to be hated, I get that.  But I felt sort of manipulated by the author, and I’m not a huge fan of that.  I understand where she was going with ending the book the way she did, but it just didn’t sit well with me.  I closed the book thinking, “really?” and “was that necessary?”

So, yeah I liked the book.  Not all of it, but I liked it.  And I definitely think I’ll read more from Woodson.  But for those of you who’ve read more of her books, I ask you – does she do this with ALL of her endings?

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14 thoughts on “If You Come Softly by Jaqueline Woodson

    1. i lov ethis book. well i made the mistake of reading ahead and found out somthing i shouldnt have! im not ganna tell you, youll have to find out for your self. but anyways the reason i live this book is because everytime i open it up i find myself smiling. and thats really strange! but i mean i couldnt help myself, i bet you wouldnt be able to either. just read the book and fing out for yourself! haha

  1. I haven’t read this one, but I’ve read four or five others and they all had satisfying, if not happy, endings, so rest assured.

    (Although I did just realize I read Behind You, the sequel to If You Come Softly, so I can guess why the ending was so upsetting. Yeah. Yikes. Check out Behind You and maybe it will make it better?)

  2. Oh, I hate it when writers pull awful endings for no reason. (I’m looking at you, My Sister’s Keeper.) While I appreciate that authors often want to imitate reality, there’s a difference between being realistic and throwing away the assumptions we have when we read fiction- specifically, that everything is important to the whole story.

    1. yeah. I can’t figure out if this ending was important to the story, I mean I guess it was, but it just wasn’t what I wanted, and I definitely felt manipulated. oh well.

  3. I just read and reviewed Hush by Woodson, the only Woodson I’ve read, and the ending was not awful or particularly tragic. There’s some awful stuff along the way, but, at the risk of spoilers, I can say the ending is more uplifting than I ever would have expected.

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