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If You Come Softly #1

If You Come Softly

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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...."

224 pages, Paperback

First published September 28, 1998

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About the author

Jacqueline Woodson

85 books8,411 followers
I used to say I’d be a teacher or a lawyer or a hairdresser when I grew up but even as I said these things, I knew what made me happiest was writing.

I wrote on everything and everywhere. I remember my uncle catching me writing my name in graffiti on the side of a building. (It was not pretty for me when my mother found out.) I wrote on paper bags and my shoes and denim binders. I chalked stories across sidewalks and penciled tiny tales in notebook margins. I loved and still love watching words flower into sentences and sentences blossom into stories.

I also told a lot of stories as a child. Not “Once upon a time” stories but basically, outright lies. I loved lying and getting away with it! There was something about telling the lie-story and seeing your friends’ eyes grow wide with wonder. Of course I got in trouble for lying but I didn’t stop until fifth grade.

That year, I wrote a story and my teacher said “This is really good.” Before that I had written a poem about Martin Luther King that was, I guess, so good no one believed I wrote it. After lots of brouhaha, it was believed finally that I had indeed penned the poem which went on to win me a Scrabble game and local acclaim. So by the time the story rolled around and the words “This is really good” came out of the otherwise down-turned lips of my fifth grade teacher, I was well on my way to understanding that a lie on the page was a whole different animal — one that won you prizes and got surly teachers to smile. A lie on the page meant lots of independent time to create your stories and the freedom to sit hunched over the pages of your notebook without people thinking you were strange.

Lots and lots of books later, I am still surprised when I walk into a bookstore and see my name on a book’s binder. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at my desk for long hours and nothing’s coming to me, I remember my fifth grade teacher, the way her eyes lit up when she said “This is really good.” The way, I — the skinny girl in the back of the classroom who was always getting into trouble for talking or missed homework assignments — sat up a little straighter, folded my hands on the desks, smiled and began to believe in me.

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5 stars
4,315 (37%)
4 stars
4,359 (37%)
3 stars
2,130 (18%)
2 stars
575 (4%)
1 star
156 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,926 reviews
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,071 followers
March 11, 2018
This was a re-read of the new audiobook. I originally read this over a decade ago and honestly didn’t remember a lot plot-wise other than it destroyed my pre-teen heart and also that it made me think of race in a way that I hadn’t before. Now, as an adult, it still totally destroyed me and left me a puddle of tears. For a story written 20 years ago, the racism faced by Jeremiah is still all too real and common today.
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 7 books55.1k followers
February 24, 2021
It's hard to believe this almost-classic by Jacqueline Woodson is twenty years old: the themes in this love story between two star-crossed teenagers, inspired by Romeo and Juliet and an Audre Lord poem, are as fresh as ever.

Jeremiah is comfortable in his Brooklyn neighborhood. But as a Black teen attending a new Manhattan prep school, he feels less comfortable. When he meets Ellie, a white Jewish girl from a different world, they know they fit together, but everyone around them is skeptical, or downright hostile.

A moving and tragic story of first love, unjust loss, and the fleetingness of time.
Profile Image for Kristina Horner.
157 reviews1,812 followers
August 1, 2018
For the longest time, I was thinking "this is such a sweet book, but what's the plot?"

And then I got to the end. Oh.. oh no.

This was a book that ripped my heart out, and I can't believe it was written 20 years ago. It's still so, so relevant today. It's hard to say I "love" a book that's so devastating and sad, but it was really powerful and I'll be thinking about it for a long time.
Profile Image for Erica Brown.
172 reviews13 followers
April 15, 2018
I’m so underwhelmed and disappointed :(. I honestly don’t really know what to say.

If You Come Softly is about Ellie, a white Jewish teen, who falls in love with Jeremiah, who is black. Unfortunately, there are a lot of consequences for the two of them together as a couple.

It sounds like a pretty decent premise? Sort of a Romeo and Juliet vibe to it (which I hate that play with a burning passion). But I had high hopes for this book, but there were just so many issues that made it unenjoyable for me.

For starters, everything is underdeveloped. The characters, the romance, the twist, everything is just rushed and has no time to develop.

First, the female protagonist, Ellie, didn’t have much of a personality. It was all about how she met Jeremiah and instantly fell in love with him, we, the readers, are never given an insight into her personality. I also just found her to be unlikeable. On the other hand, Jeremiah was a more well developed character. Sure, he also instantly fell in love with Ellie (because you know, mutual love at first sight is very common 🙄) but he is given more of a personality. We learn Jeremiah is a basketball player and has dreams of going into the NBA, and we learn how his sad past did not break his spirit. Ellie, sadly didn’t have anything interesting going for her.

Now, I basically already mentioned the romance and how quick it was, but really it was quick. Like I blinked and then, BAM! They are instantly in love. I honestly hate this troupe so much in books because I find it so unrealistic (and because I love some tension, hehe). But really though, are you going to see someone and instantly fall in love with them? Sure, I’ve never been in love before but I don’t think that’s how it works. I could be wrong though I don’t know.

Lastly, i don’t think I’ve never said this about a book before, but it was too short. Due to this only being 181 pages, which most people could read in a day, it causes everything to be rushed. If this book was at least 300 pages, I felt like we would be given more insight on Ellie’s personality and that big twist at the end.

Overall this book had a very promising premise and focused on an issue that is unfortunately still relevant to this day, despite this book being 20 years old. Sadly, it just wasn’t well executed :(
Profile Image for Diane .
383 reviews13 followers
April 26, 2015
I met Jacqueline Woodson at the 2015 LA Times Festival of Books (I ushered her author speaking engagement) and was so impressed by her that I had to purchase some of her books, this being one of them. She autographed this with the perfect inscription: "To Diane With Love". Not only did that show her genuineness, but that is also exactly what this book is all about.

Ellie, white, Jewish; meets Jerimiah, ("Miah"), black, in high school, both 15 years old, by literally running into each other. Their story of innocent bi-racial young love is one that is sweet and enduring, in spite of the odds of day-to-day real life that you can expect from the situation. In the book's climax, the real life situation takes a hard twist that I was not expecting. I will not say more as I don't want to give any spoilers away, but let's say that Miah's dad gave him very good advice.

I'm thrilled to have met and discovered this author. I understand her writing is primarily YA and children's. I would not hesitate for a minute to give this book to my teenage daughter/son if I had one. There is nothing explicitly sexual, so as long as you are cool with interracial situations, don't hesitate to read it and/or recommend it to your teen. I look forward to reading Brown Girl Dreaming which I picked up the day after the Festival at my local indie bookstore, Vromans. Shame on me for not getting it at the Festival when I could have had Ms. Woodson autograph it for me.
Profile Image for Greta.
58 reviews18 followers
February 22, 2008
if you come softly
as the wind within the tress
you may hear what i hear
see what sorrow sees...

and if you come i will be silent
nor speak harsh words to you
i will not ask you why, now.
or how, or what you do.

we shall sit here softly
beneath two different years
and the rich earth between us
shall drink our tears.

bi-racial city romance.
lyrical, simple, sweet, and as such, heartbreaking.

Profile Image for Shawna Finnigan.
478 reviews318 followers
December 15, 2020
This book destroyed me. It was one of the most powerful and important books that I have ever read, but it is also one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read. For such a short book, this one really packed a punch.

I'm not going to lie, the book is a bit slow and I wasn't fond of how quickly the romance in the story moved, but I do feel that this is a really good book. I almost feel like this book should be studied in school instead of Romeo and Juliet if I'm being quite honest. I've also been going back and forth about whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars, but I feel like the messages and themes are so important in this book that it is deserving of 4 stars.

This book was extremely eye opening and educational. It provided not only a look into interracial relationships, but also a look into the racism and prejudice that black people have to face. The news can tell you about the racism in our world, but everyone needs to read a book like this one that really opens your eyes beyond what the news tells you.

The two main characters were also so innocent and pure. Both Miah and Ellie seemed like such perfect, gentle souls, which made the events of the story even more heartbreaking.

I highly recommend that everyone reads this book. Even if you have some issues with things like the pacing of the book, you will still walk away from this book with a new perspective about the world.
Profile Image for Emma.
215 reviews119 followers
July 17, 2020
At long last, I'm writing the reviews for books that I've read within the past several months! This one was, admittedly, quite hard to gather my feelings on. While the message of the story is important - and timely now, more than ever - the emotional impact just wasn't there for me. I find this to be a pretty consistent struggle with Jacqueline Woodson's work, because while her writing is undoubtedly beautiful and relevant, there's just something I don't connect with. Maybe it's the length of the story, or the literary style. Regardless, this was still a well-written story that I would recommend to anyone looking for a short, but still emotionally affecting read.
3.5/5 Stars RTC! <3
Profile Image for Brina.
904 reviews4 followers
February 24, 2023
An early work of Jacqueline Woodson that I selected for African American history month 2023. Not as polished as her later work but still profound with the ability to flesh out complex characters in a short amount of time. Full review to come.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,758 reviews759 followers
February 16, 2022
I’ve come to really love Woodson’s writing. She tackles incredibly tough subjects in such a stunning way and explores Black culture beautifully. I previously read adult fiction by her, it was nice to read something more YA based from her. She does both really well and while I’m not a huge fan of YA romance I will absolutely make an exception for this story. The mix of Black and Jewish cultures was really interesting and actually made me learn a lot and I really appreciated that. My only minor complaint is that there was so much build up to the love story and then it felt like the story was suddenly cut short and I was like wait, all that build up and it just ends?! I just wanted more, I was so drawn in and it just wasn’t enough to satisfy me. But that aside it was such a stunning and heartbreaking story, it actually brought tears to my eyes towards the end and that’s a rare occasion for me when reading. Read this book, it will make you learn and grow and feel beautiful things!
Profile Image for Melissa ~ Missy (FrayedBooks).
636 reviews58 followers
May 9, 2018
It's crazy how a book published in 1998 is still relevant in 2018, 20 years later. This book doesn't feel that dated - maybe the lack of cell phones or the use of a house phone makes it a little dated - but the theme is still relevant in today's world. A black boy dating a white, Jewish girl - something frowned upon by society. Maybe in todays New York City (where the story takes place) an interracial couple wouldn't get weird glances, but in other parts of the country, its still relevant even in 2018.

I decided to listen to the audiobook for the Twentieth Anniversary Edition of this book and I almost didn't believe this was first published in 1998. Romeo and Juliet meets The Hate U Give.

This is a short, fast read. It felt almost too quick but on the flip side, it was nice that it was short and to the point. Insta-love Romeo and Juliet style set in a modern school environment, but I didn't mind it the way I do in some YA novels of today. This is a novel that has withstood the ages and will withstand for years to come. An important read in 1998 and even in 2018.
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
547 reviews3,542 followers
January 22, 2019
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

*wipes away tears* IT'S FINE. I'M FINE. This book destroyed all of my one feeling. It was so soft and full of love all throughout and then the ending destroyed!! The writing is amazing, the characters got a strong grip on my heart and the family dynamics were brilliant.
This book was written 20 years ago but it's still so relevant to today's society!
Profile Image for Lauren Fanella.
151 reviews92 followers
January 28, 2018
Jacqueline Woodson never fails to amaze me. This book was only 180 pages and I felt so attached to the two main characters. She’s able to evoke such emotion. So elegant and so heartbreaking. This book left me in tears.
Profile Image for Johanna Lundin.
290 reviews180 followers
November 16, 2020
3.5 ⭐ Woodson är en mästare på att skriva stora berättelser med få ord oavsett vilken åldersgrupp hon än skriver för. Detta drabbande öde för de unga tu är oerhört aktuell trots att den skrevs 1998 och det är tragiskt och nedslående att så lite har hänt i USA gällande ras.
Profile Image for marina.
47 reviews28 followers
February 3, 2022
No. No this book was so sad. Why have I only been reading books with sad endings lately? I don't know, send help though :)

Miah and Ellie were relationship goals...except the book was super short. Which I guess meant less room for heartbreak, but when they finally hung out it was so sudden. Who just randomly skips class and instantly clicks with each other...I guess this power couple does.

Yeah this is probably the third book I've read in a row that I've cried about. What is going on I need something upbeat!!

🪱🪱🪱🪱.7/5 worms this book was beautiful
July 11, 2018
One of my favorite parts of the book is the cover. It is bright, colorful, and you feel the joy that that the love has between them. I really liked the book which was a surprise to me. It was written by Jacqueline Woodson, celebrating it 20th Anniversary. This book is a powerful story of interracial love that leaves readers wondering why and if. I liked it very much. And it touched me on many areas in that area.

If You Come Softly is a love story. The novel tells of two young people, Miah and Ellie, who fall in love unexpectedly and are preparing themselves to accept all that their love will mean to them and to the world, when their moment of possibility is tragically stolen. Ellie is the novel’s first-person narrator, while Miah’s third-person voice offers his perspective in equal measure.

Miah and Ellie meet at Percy Academy, where both are new transfer students. Miah, an African American basketball player from Brooklyn, wears his hair in dreadlocks and is skeptical about attending a school with so many white students. Ellie drops her books in the hallway, and Miah helps her pick them up. Curiosity sparks between them, and they think about each other constantly as they return to their regular lives.

Ellie lives with her parents in a wealthy neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She has four much older siblings scattered around the country. When Ellie was young, her mother twice abandoned the family, so Ellie still feels anger and mistrust toward her mother, calling her by her first name. After meeting Miah, she wonders what her family will think about her interest in dating an African American student. When she floats the idea in a phone call to her sister, Anne, Anne’s response is not enthusiastic. Ellie becomes nervous about telling her parents about Miah. For the rest of the novel, she struggles with figuring out when...the story comes to the next chapter and how they will blend their families together. Very well written. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Keri.
185 reviews
April 6, 2013
This story has been done before: a forbidden romance between two young people. Society won't accept their love and only a tragedy can bring everyone together. Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. It is a plot that has become cliche, but there is something special about If You Come Softly.

The book is about Elisha, a white Jewish girl, and Miah, an African-American boy, both living in New York City. For them, it is love at first sight. They click instantly and share everything with eachother, even stories about their dysfunctional families. Throughout their short relationship, they deal with the prejudices from the outside. Elisha's biggest fear is letting her family know that she is dating an African-American, especially after her sister practically abandoned her because of it.

The plot itself is not that interesting. What did intrigue me though was the racism the author portrayed. It seemed like it took place in the fifties, not nineties. But it definitely opened my eyes and made me realize that even today, fourteen years after this book was written, the prejudices still exist, even if we aren't aware of them. The characters portray that the racism can lie deep in our subconscious, even if we don't want to admit it.

The language the author uses is beautiful. Every word floats off of the page and stays with the reader. Most of the time I became lost in the setting because I could just picture it perfectly in my head. I finished this book in one day, but not because of the characters, but because of the beauty of the language the author uses to describe everything from emotions to the setting.

The characters, on the other hand, didn't really grow on me. I felt like I never really got to know them. Apart from their romance and family problems, I never really learned anything else.

This book is a quick and emotional read. The author addresses a controversial subject with beauty and grace. For romance and young adult readers, If You Come Softly shoud be added to their to-read list.
Profile Image for Anastasia_._._._p.
190 reviews45 followers
August 31, 2021
Ο Τζερεμάια είναι μαύρος. Η Ελλι είναι λευκή Εβραία. Είναι διαφορετικοί, είναι συμμαθητές, είναι έφηβοι, είναι έτοιμοι να ερωτευτούν, είναι μαζί.

Πως χώρεσε όλη αυτή αγάπη σε τόσο λίγες σελίδες, ακόμα αναρωτιέμαι!

Τα έχει τα χρονάκια του το βιβλίο αλλά δεν το καταλάβαινεις. Μοιάζει να γράφτηκε χθες. Ή μάλλον μοιάζει να γράφεται κάθε μέρα ξανά και ξανά. Πάντα το ίδιο δυνατό και σημαντικό. Από την αρχή μέχρι το τέλος.

"Ίσως οι άνθρωποι να γλιστρουσαν πάντα ο ένας προς τον άλλο, από την αρχή της ζωής τους. Ισως ο Μάια να ερχόταν πάντα προς το μέρος μου προς αυτή τη στιγμή που καθόμασταν στο Σεντραλ Παρκ. Πιασμένοι χέρι χέρι. Να ερχόταν κοντά μου ανάλαφρα και σιγανά."
Profile Image for Viola.
132 reviews20 followers
July 17, 2018
all the stars!!! this was so beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. wow!
Profile Image for Radwa.
Author 1 book2,062 followers
August 10, 2021
English Review Below.

تحذير، هذا الكتاب نهايته حزينة كما نعرف من الفصل الأول. هذه قصة حب بين فتى أسود وبنت يهودية يلتقيان في مدرسة خاصة. يقعان في الحب ويبدآن في التفكير في علاقتهما من منظورهما الخاص وكذلك من منظور المجتمع الذي لا يتقبل رؤيتهما معا لأسباب كثيرة، ويطرح ذلك الكثير من التساؤلات عن مدى تعمق العنصرية في وعي المجتمع. هي رواية لليافعين، وعلى عكس أغلب روايات اليافعين حيث تكون قصة الأهل سطحية أو لا نرى الأهل على الإطلاق، في هذه الرواية قصة الأهل تنبض بالحياة ولها دور مهم في الأحداث. كل فصة من وجهة نظر الفتاة "إيلي" أو الفتى "جيريمايا"، وأسلوب الكتابة رائع وحالم، ورغم أنها قصة عن الحب من أول نظرة، فلم تكن مبتذلة على الإطلاق.

تناقش الرواية قضايا مثل العرق والعنصرية والتنمر ومشاكل العائلة والمعايير المزدوجة وعنف الشرطة. هنا لا يكون التركيز على فعل الشرطة العنيف، بل على عواقبه وكيف بدا كأنه أمر محتوم الحدوث. كُتبت هذه الرواية منذ أكثر من 20 عاما، لكنها ما زالت تنطبق على واقعنا. الرواية لها جزء ثاني، وأعتقد أني هقرأه قريبا.

Warning, this bad has a sad ending. There's a hint of Romeo and Juliet in this love story between a black boy and a Jewish girl meeting in a posh private school. They fall in love and start to biew their relationship from their point of view, but also from the society's point of view, as a lot of people seem to have a problem seeing them together for so many reasons, and it makes them both aware of how deep the racism goes. But One of the things I liked here that unlike many YA novels where the parents' lives are so shallow or fading into the background or the parents don't even exist at all, Ellie and Miah's parents' stories are vibrant and are as important to the story line.

The story alternates POVs between Ellie and Miah, each chapter shows us inside the head of the other. The writing is gorgeous, and though it's all "love at first sight" type of story, it's not cliched and somehow fits the characters. It discuses race, bullying, family issues, double standards and hypocrisy, and police brutality. The focus isn't on the act of the police brutality itself, but on the consequences and how "inevitable" it seemed. It's sad that a book written 20 years ago would still be so relevant today.

The first chapter shows that this story ends sadly, but that didn't lessen the pain or the fact that I cried reading the last few chapters. I'm also definitely reading the second book very soon.
Profile Image for De Grote Vriendelijke Podcast.
188 reviews107 followers
February 18, 2022
De eerste Nederlandse vertaling van dit boek dat in 1998 al in Amerika verscheen, is nauwelijks opgemerkt. Maar nu is er een nieuwe vertaling van dit ontroerende en nog altijd actuele liefdesverhaal. Luister wat we erover te zeggen hebben in de 66ste aflevering van De Grote Vriendelijke Podcast, via Spotify, je podcast-app of https://www.degrotevriendelijkepodcas...
Profile Image for Bruna Miranda.
Author 8 books766 followers
February 4, 2019
Socorro que eu não esperava o que esse livro me trouxe <3 É um livro YA escrito em 1998 (21 anos atrás!) que fala sobre adolescentes sendo adolescentes e se apaixonando, e lidando com o racismo diariamente.

Foi um dos primeiros livros da Jacqueline Woodson que já tem infinitos livros lançados e é ganhadora de vários prêmios e quando mais eu pesquiso sobre ela, mais eu acho justíssimo.
Profile Image for Dana Al-Basha |  دانة الباشا.
2,191 reviews786 followers
Shelved as 'to-buy'
March 12, 2018
It seems like no one reads history; if you did, you would know that Jewish people were originally black (and some still are), so I don't get what's the problem with being with someone of color?!
Profile Image for Janne Janssens.
174 reviews61 followers
February 27, 2022

Bedankt aan Volt uitgeverij en L&M Books voor dit recensie-exemplaar. Dit beïnvloedt mijn leeservaring en recensie in geen enkel opzicht.

Blijf zachtjes bij me is een prachtig verhaal over hoe twee werelden die bestonden in dezelfde stad samenkomen, hoe elke familie zijn problemen kent en hoe liefde groeit en bloeit rond de hindernissen heen.

De perspectieven van hoofdpersonages Ellie en Miah wisselen elkaar elk hoofdstuk af. Zo leren we hun beide gezinssituaties en hoe ze omgaan met de veranderingen hierin, terwijl ze als jongeren hun eigen pad proberen te vinden in het leven. En zo leren we ook langs beide kanten hoe hun liefde voor elkaar groeit. Hun verhalen worden simpel, mooi en tegelijk soms triest verteld, zoals het leven van alledag.
Het einde is dan ineens erg abrupt en rauw, en tegelijk voorspelbaar. En dat voorspelbare is net het probleem, niet van het boek, maar van de wereld, omdat het betekent dat zulke situaties te vaak voor komen. Het verhaal en het einde zijn dan wel twintig jaar geleden geschreven, maar zijn nog erg actueel. Dit boek verdient zeker een plaats in de bibliotheken van middelbare scholen.

Waarom geef ik dan geen vijf sterren? Hoewel zulke verhalen het ALTIJD waard zijn te vertellen, heb ik ook het gevoel dat er ook al sterkere neergepend zijn.
Profile Image for Marloes.
670 reviews65 followers
April 20, 2022
Ja, ja, ja, dit is mooi, aangrijpend, ontroerend en het verhaal zal je raken! Het verhaal van Jeremiah en Ellie, twee tieners die verliefd worden. Een verhaal over werelden die verschillen en overeenkomen, over huidskleur en racisme, over bijzondere en soms moeilijke gezinssituaties, over je thuis voelen bij iemand, over geluk, vooroordelen en onbegrip. Vol mooie dialogen, levensechte personages, krachtige voorbeelden en een einde dat je niet onberoerd achterlaat. Ga het lezen!
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