If You Come Softly

ISBN: 0142406015
ISBN 13: 9780142406014
By: Jacqueline Woodson

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African American Currently Reading Favorites Fiction Realistic Fiction Romance Teen To Read Ya Young Adult

About this book

Both Elisha (Ellie) and Jeremiah (Miah) attend Percy Academy, a private school where neither quite fits in. Ellie is wrestling with family demons, and Miah is one of the few African American students. The two of them find each other, and fall in love -- but they are hesitant to share their newfound happiness with their friends and families, who will not understand. At the end, life makes the brutal choice for them: Jeremiah is shot and killed, and Ellie now has to cope with the consequences..

Reader's Thoughts


** spoiler alert ** Before I'd even finished reading this book, I'd gone onto the online catalogs of my public libraries (I belong to two) to find other Jacqueline Woodson books. It turns out that if I want any more I'll have to get them on inter-library loan, which will cost a couple of dollars each time. But I don't care. This book has been more than enough to convince me that I want to read other books by her. (And then when I read what Show Way was about, well... that was the first one to go on the request list.)If You Come Softly was meant to be a light read for me. A nice, YA romance, set in Manhattan, before I get properly stuck in to Doreen Kartinyeri My Ngarrindjeri Calling, which is a definite "heavy" read. And for the majority of the book it was just that (only with various interesting observations about names, pov, and just how wonderful the minor characters were.) Having reached the end, some of those comments feel a little petty (especially my confusion about names and pronunciation!)I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I loved this book before I reached the end. And having reached the end, I still love it, and still think it's brilliant and amazing, only for entirely different reasons.There was so much in this that spoke to me: I've already quoted a passage from Miah's point of view to Miriam. There are bits from both Miah and Ellie's point of view that I feel really speak to the LJ "RaceFail" conversations at the moment. I would love to quote them at length (and may do so).As for the ending... SPOILERS HEREAFTER:To me, it seems clear what happened to Miah (police shooting, because he didn't stop). And there's something in the fact that Ellie never mentions it that makes it all so much more real. Meanwhile, that Miah could be killed when he was so in love, so young, that just... tugs. Hurts. As does the fact that this "solved" the problem that they were dealing with: how to be together in spite of other people's opinions.I wish they'd had more time. I wish I (as the reader) had had more time. There's no way her world can be the same again, and as much as I know that fixing the relationship with her sister before Miah was killed would have been Deus ex Machina, I wish they had. I wish Ellie still had Anne. Because I want to love Anne. But I want her to love and support Ellie. And I think there's now as irreparable a rift between Ellie and Anne as between Ellie and Marion.There's *so* much in this book: the whole relationship between Ellie and Marion! That sense of abandonment, of never being able to feel totally safe... I loved that the families had their own issues. That nothing was entirely untangled, uncomplicated.So basically, yeah. How do I love this book, let me count the ways. If I hadn't been reading it in public, I definitely would have cried my way through the last three chapters.


"If You Come Softly" is a story of unrequited love between Jeremiah, a fifteen-year-old African American and Ellie, who is Jewish. Both are transferring from other areas. Jeremiah, a basketball player, has just begun going to a preparatory school (Percy Academy) in New York. He and the other few African American boys are not widely accepted because of the color of their skin, and Jeremiah unexpectedly meets Ellie. They become inseparable from that day forth but are reluctant to tell their parents because they do not believe they would understand. The two teenagers are head over heels in love with each other, but all the world could see when they looked at them was their skin colors- Black and White. When Ellie finally decides to tell her parents about her relationship and love for Jeremiah, the excitement does not last long because the love of her life has been killed. As I said before, I am drawn to every type of love story, seeing that I am a HOPELESS romantic. I love the fact how it paints the picture of how things were in the past when a man and woman had to be willing to give their lives for the sake of love just like Romeo and Juliet did... I really enjoyed this book and plan to read it again.

Kendall M

i LOVED this book! This book had emotions everywhere. The feelings Miah and Elle had for each other told the story of true love. Miah was Black, Elle was white, that didn't stop them from loving one another. The detail in this book was Phenomonal! The best detail it had was one Miah was running through the park with his basketball, he was thinking of Elle, basketball, his family, school, the snow twirled all around him, and then the moment he gets shot you hold your breath. I never wanted to put this book down! Personally Jacqueline Woodson is the best author ever!

Teresa Grubbs

Loved the book from the start, but I hated the ending. Ellie, a white girl, and Jeremiah, a black guy, fall in love in high school. I enjoyed seeing their tentative relationship blossom.


Ellie and Jeremiah fall in love at first sight. The fact that he's black and she's white doesn't matter to them, but it's all everyone else can see.[return][return]This had some good stuff going on. I particularly liked the chapters in Jeremiah's POV and his observations about the world...that's pretty much all that saved it from being a run-of-the-mill teen issue book. As it is, it didn't save it enough for me. [return][return]There's a lot of stuff labelled YA that I read and wonder why it was labelled that, because it doesn't seem any different from adult fiction other than the age of the protagonists. This definitely felt like something aimed at teens. It also feels kind of dated. I see it was written in 1998 and it feels more like the kind of YA I remember from when I was in jr high and high school than more recent stuff I've written. Or maybe I've just avoided reading the more hit-you-over-the-head unsubtle stuff.[return][return]Also, I guess the ending was supposed to be ~tragic~ but I just laughed when Jeremiah got stabbed, because it so reminded me of all those teen books from when I was growing up, where everyone died of leukemia or something. It didn't seem profound, just cliched. Also here it felt like a cop-out. I would have rather seen a story where they had a happy ending and made their relationship work, or else they didn't and the interracial thing was too much and they broke up, not he died before she'd even introduced him to her parents.[return][return]Anyway...those who are more fans of YA than me might like this more. And while I found a lot of it cliched and blah, the interracial relationship was handled a lot better than I can imagine it being handled by a white author, so it's maybe worth reading just for that (it's a short read). Like, I'm not sure if as a teen I ever read a book where the ~issue~ was an interracial relationship (as opposed to dying of leukemia), but I can picture very clearly how it would be written and this has much less of the hand-wringing and back-patting.[return][return]Oh, also I was really put off by the fact that it's about rich kids at prep school, but once I started reading, it wasn't really an issue. (And I did like that it highlighted that racism is universal. In my imaginary interracial teen romance by a white author, I'm sure the boy would have been from the wrong side of the tracks or whatever.)[return][return]Also, also, anyone wanting a story with a Jewish protagonist that's not about the Holocaust should check this out. Ellie being Jewish isn't a plot point, it's just there.

K. Bird

I didn't know about Jacqueline Woodson. I don't even remember where I got the recommendation to read her books.But I'm glad I know now.If You Come Softly is about a Jewish girl and Black boy at a mostly white New York prep school who come together in love.No, it's not what you think. There are some obvious ways this story could have been addressed, but Woodson chose a more lyrical, complex route than what I've come across before.Their coming together is portrayed as a love that just is; no particular reason but that they recognize something familiar in each other. (I love how Woodson has the boy describe how he feels like the girl is wrapped inside him, inside his eyes and chest, it sounds better in the book than here, believe me)And the parents of the two never deal with the race issue because they don't know until the very end of the book. But the portrayal of how the two love eachother as individuals while feeling confused about how they can do so while having complicated feelings for an entire race is so very poignant and true.And much like I feel sometimes, thinking about my own husband. How is it possible for us to only love and be familiar with and treat as human in their own right one at a time from any group of people? Why, if I'm married to a Japanese man, does that make me not racist or guilty of stereotyping any subsequent Japanese men I meet?And Woodson doesn't pull punches. The boy, does have some difficult realizations about how people treat him when he's with the girl, and realizes as well that when they're together and she stops noticing race as an issue, it isn't the same thing at all as when he stops noticing race as an issue. (She tells him that she feels 'no color' when they're together, but he realizes that he always feels 'black' and then realizes she doesn't quite understand her own whiteness)And Woodson addressed layers of issue related to the race issue. She has a rift develop between the girl and the girl's gay sister when the sister finds out the boy she's dating is black. And in the phone conversation they have, Woodson brings up issues of how minorities can fall into the trap of propagating the mainstream prejudice eventhough they "understand" what prejudice is when directed towards themselves.But most of all, the writing is lovely. And accessible. And compelling.Definitely recommended for anyone who might have an interest in how race issues in relationships might be addressed by a non-white writer.

Caroline Saltzman

I REALLY liked this book. I started reading it yesterday, and I finished today. It was so clear and understanding. It shows me a lot of how people think and how it feels to be the victim of a stereotype. Ellie and Jerimiah are sophmores in a private school called Percy. Jerimiah is black, and Ellie is white, but that doesn't seem to matter. Since they both first saw each other they knew that they were meant to be together. Througout the story there are people who judge their reliatonship, like the private school snobs, and Ellie's sister Anne.They both have problems in their family life. Jerimiah's father cheated on his mother with this lady named Lois Ann. His father is a movie directer/producer who is really famous. When Jerimiah goes to Percy, people give him dirty looks. He wants to tell them that he isn't poor, he's actually probably richer than most of them, but at the same time he doesn't want to be treated any differently than he was at Brooklyn Tech.Ellie (Elisha) is constantly paranoid that her mother (Marion) will leave her. When she was 8, her mom left for a month, leaving Ellie all alone, with her father. Ellie's sister is a lesbian, and has a partner, but even she can't get over the fact that Ellie has a black boyfriend. After Anne's reaction to Jerimiah, Ellie can't trust anyone, she can only trust Jerimiah.I think it's really bad how everyone judges their relationship. I think that you fall in love with a person, not a gender, or race. You can't help who you love, it isn't your fault, and people should NOT judge that. This is because if they were in your position, they wouldn't want to be judged either. This story was very intruiging and it was nice to get the points of view from Jerimiah AND Ellie.


YA/romance/interracial loveSurprisingly gripping from the start, "If You Come Softly" has a powerful voice which carries the reader through the story of Jeremiah, a black kid from a Brooklyn neighborhood, and Ellie, a white girl who lives right off of Central Park - who both new at a prep school, meet each other and feel a deep connection. Told from both of their perspectives, we see how this relationship fits in their lives with their very different families, and how it makes a turning point for their understanding of themselves, and what it means to be white or black, or simply a teenager in the modern world. Most compelling is the strength of the voice in the prose, which sets the overall tone of the book in a sweeping melancholy way. We see, rather than stereotypes of black or white, simply a story of two kids growing up in the real world.Although one knows, or suspects the ending from the very beginning, Woodson manages to imbue enough reality into the characters that we continue to emote with them, almost forgetting the inevitable. All around, the book left me with a powerful feeling which settled in for a while after I finished the book. A bit of a sadder read, but definitely suitable for any kid willing to take another look at the world around them.

Amanda Touchton

This book was listed as a LGBTQ novel, but the book didn't really deal with any LGBTQ issues. The story is about a relationship between an interracial couple, Ellie and Jeramiah, at a wealthy private school; about how their relationship progresses, and how they deal with the outside world's response to their love.I thought the book painted a beautiful picture of two people who had a deep connection. From the moment they first see each other, Ellie and Miah are atracted to one another. The more they get to know each other, the more they click and connect. The book does a wonderful job contrasting the comfortable, happy place within their relationship, and the uncomfortable, judgemental situations they encounter outside of it. There is an intersting phone conversation between Ellie and her older sister Anne, a lesbian who lives in San Fransico (maybe this is why this book is listed as LGBTQ?) when Ellie tells Anne, her confidante, that the boy she likes is black. Anne's response is exactly the same as she received from her own mother upon telling her mother she loved another woman - concern. "I just don't want to see you get hurt" Anne tells Ellie. I thought this was very interesting. I think this would be a great book to use in a multi-cultural unit, or in a unit to learn about developing relationships between characters within a story.


Jeremiah es tiroteado y muere, y Ellie ahora tiene que lidiar con las consecuencias.Mmmm... suena como un libro alegre.Me dijeron que es muy bueno, así que voy a arriesgarme a pesar de esa sinopsis


I never really thought of bi-racial romance that much because nowadays, it is just normal. However, of course, way back, it wasn't. So it is just normal to pretend that we are in a forbidden era when reading this book. However, I really didn't get this book a lot. Of course it is romantic and I have to admit that I liked the book cover even! But I never had the passion nor the happiness, nor even the fulfillment of accomplishing anything after reading this. I find it a little sad and really compelling but it never made me cry any other way. I guess that's not the point and I am just being a stinker :|. I think that bi-racial romance is actually not bad because mixed races are usually more attractive and more stable sometimes. Like how half-bloods can be fluent on two languages? Anyways, I think that their romance is very sad but I also think that the way their romance started is kind of fast. They just knew each other after bumping into one another, the next day, they can't take off each other's thoughts. It's a little unbelievable to me. I guess you can say I am not really a believer of love at first sight.

Ravenne Cooper

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this book. But to be forthright, the book was very difficult to keep focus on. I was bored with the book and felt like some scenes would be stretched and then others were rushed. But I did love the use of words used by Jacqueline Woodson. It is about a two teenagers of different races. Jeremiah is black while Elisa is Jewish. They meet each other in their new high school and become infatuated with each other. They fall in love but see how people look at them when they are seen together. They wonder why people only see skin color, and never the soul of someone. They struggle with strangers staring and even family members prejudice against colors. The ending is a shocker, revealing Jermiah to be killed by the police by an accident. His death affects Ellie deeply but she keeps him alive in her memories. I would recommend this to people who love passionate love stories.


A black guy and a Jewish girl meet in a private school Nothing happens Then they get really happy And then the boy dies He dies Done Stupidness

David Valliere

This novel is written beautifully. It is easy to read - not only because of its simplicity, but also due to its enjoyability. If You Come Softly deftly weaves many complex and confusing relationships into the same story. The main conflict concerns a white, Jewish girl who falls in love with a black boy. The racial conflict is nicely counter-pointed with a seemingly ironic socioeconomic difference. Other relationship issues are also addressed: a lesbian relationship, an extra-marital affair, and a struggling and often failing marriage. Racial issues are powerfully yet comfortably approached. There is the case of a half-white, half-black boy, who adds insight and acts as a fitting backdrop to the confusing beginnings of a blossoming relationship between a black boy and a white girl in 1990’s New York. Parents come in to play, and the negative responses of various, outside people add to the confusing equation of the main characters’ love. If You Come Softly asks many questions, and there aren’t always answers ready. That may be what makes the book so relevant and great. This book asks the question, “Why should anything else matter if love is involved?” If you’re unsure, read this book.


This book was a very quick read for me. I enjoyed reading it, but didn't feel particularly moved by the characters, as there just didn't seem to be enough story to really, truly become invested in who they were. I didn't love the ending, and if Cari is reading this, you won't like the ending at all, so I wouldn't even bother reading this book if I were you. It will just make you frustrated. :)This is a story about a white girl and a black boy who fall in love, very quickly, and very deeply. They both have histories that have molded them into people that have some sort of gaping emptiness that needs to be filled, and by gazing into each other's eyes, they can see the other persons emptiness and relate to it. This type of scenario would be boring to me regardless of the match up of people; race, religion, sexual orientation, etc...However, I did enjoy the easiness of the read. There wasn't a lot of thinking involved. The story progressed forward and with a purpose. Ms. Woodson's writing style was pleasant to read, and I enjoyed not having to stumble through foul language. In all, I liked it better than just two stars, but couldn't quite give it the four stars because I didn't come away from reading it feeling like I was better off for doing so. It's a fine read, and I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't rush right out and start recommending it to the masses.

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