Book Review: If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Reading In Color: Throwback Thursday: If You Come Softly

Title: If You Come Softly

Author: Jacqueline Woodson

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 192

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes

I like Jacqueline Woodson’s crackling rhythmic prose, but something keeps me from loving her books. Maybe it’s because other than Lonnie in Locomotion and Peace, Locomotion, I usually have trouble connecting with her characters. It feels she tends to prioritize her poetic writing style over character development, and If You Come Softly is no exception. It tells the tragic story of a doomed love affair between a Jewish girl and an African-American boy.

Jeremiah is new to a predominantly white school, and when he bumps into Ellie in the hall it’s attraction at first sight. I felt like their infatuation developed too intensely after they’ve just met for a minute or two. Ellie is already telling her story about ‘this boy she met’ and acting like she hears wedding bells. What Ellie doesn’t expect is all the prejudice and hatred she and Jeremiah face because of their interracial relationship. People stare at them and are antagonistic but Jeremiah and Ellie stand strong in their love for each other.

Ellie and Jeremiah are fairly interesting characters with surprisingly rich backstories, and I liked how they were both very privileged instead of Jeremiah being a ‘poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks’ kind of character. You get an strong idea of how being Black has brought up challenges for him that Ellie has no experiences even though they’re both rich.

I just wish I was more emotionally affected by this book. The ending is very vague and abrupt and felt emotionally manipulative. I wondered if it was necessary- Jacqueline Woodson obviously wanted a tragic ending but it felt kind of tacked on. If You Come Softly does have a sequel and I’m interested in reading it, but it’s not a priority right now.

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