If You Come Softly

ISBN: 0142406015
ISBN 13: 9780142406014
By: Jacqueline Woodson

Check Price Now


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


If you come softly Jacqueline WoodsonWoodson writes a compelling story of young love, not the - I think you’re cute – love but the soul mate at first sight love. High school students at a prestigious New York private school, Ellie and Miah find each other and the problems associated with interracial couples. Miah comes from a high profile black family and Ellie’s parents are an upper class Jewish family. Both experience family issues that leave them lonely and distrustful of others until they meet and experience the joy of first love.The text delves into racial identity and social acceptance with many lessons to be learned by all. I recommend the book and think it would integrate well with any lesson plan with the theme of cultural differences or overcoming struggles.


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.

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!

Allyson (Belle)

[Review done for my Teaching Literature to Adolescents class] Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly is the story of two teenagers experiencing love for the first time. This can be an exciting and challenging time for every teenager, but Jeremiah and Ellie’s love story is complicated by the fact the he is black and she is white. Though they have different skin colors, they knew the moment they locked eyes that there was something special between them. Their friendship quickly grows to love as they bond over their difficult family and home situations. However, their relationship is not accepted by everyone, and they are constantly met with stares and whispers. Together they learn how to navigate the school hallways and the streets of New York City, enduring the challenge of an interracial relationship in a world intolerant of anything different.I could see this novel being used well in a classroom. It is relatively short so it would not be a hard read for the students, especially for middle school students. It is particularly good for a middle school level because it addresses the issue of race and interracial relationships without the use of any sexual language or acts. This could be tied into a unit on tolerance and acceptance as an example of how discriminations (racial and other) are still present in today’s society. Discreetly introducing students to issues of race and sexuality at a younger age is beneficial in developing their later views and ideas on these subjects. Teaching them about tolerance when they are at such an impressionable age will hopefully prevent them from reacting negatively to these issues when they are older.


** spoiler alert ** An awesome concept-- obviously a great complement if teaching Romeo and Juliet in the classroom. The continued reference to real commitment in young characters, the stigma of the interracial couple is highlighted throughout, the complicated dynamics and shapes that the modern family can take on-- all great additions to the plot. However, the ending just seemed over the top, unnecessary-- trying to be realistic, but sort of perpetuating that whole black vs. white discord that causes the reactions, stigmas and battles of the book (coincidentally, the same reactions, stigmas, battles that necessitate this exact plot in YA lit). In a novel seemingly attempting to bridge the gap between races, it ends with a touch of something that seems hopeless and irreparable.


I have to read it for school. Looks very interesting.

Andrew Anthony

If You Come Softly is a love story. Jeremiah and Ellie are both new transfer students at Percy Academy. Jeremiah is an African American basketball player from Brooklyn. His father is a famous movie director and author. His parents are divorced. Ellie is the daughter of a white, Jewish doctor. She lives with her parents in a wealthy neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her mother has abandoned her twice in the past so Ellie still feels anger and mistrust toward her mother. Jeremiah and Ellie meet at school when Ellie drops her books in the hallway and Jeremiah helps her pick them up. They are immediately attracted to each other. The fact that Jeremiah’s parents are divorced and Ellie’s mother has abandoned her in the past brings them even closer, but their interracial relationship draws a lot of negative attention. Two elderly white ladies ask Ellie if she is okay because she is walking with an African American boy. A group of white boys shout racial slurs at the two of them. While their friends do not openly criticize them, they pretend not to notice. Jeremiah and Ellie have to hide their relationship from Ellie’s parent. Jeremiah and Ellie are determined to be together, but their relationship has a tragic ending. My thoughts on the book mixed. I am not very interested in love stories but the book was easy to read. If you enjoy romance, this could be the book for you.


I thought this novel was absolutely beautiful! It is the story of Miah--a fifteen year old African-American boy who starts at a new high school to play basketball and meets Ellie, a Jewish white girl. From the moment they meet they feel a connection and are able to share with each other their fears, plans and the turmoil going on in their families, as Miah's parents have divorced due to his film-maker father's affair, and Ellie is struggling to trust her mother after she had abandoned her years ago. The two fall in love and come to mean everything to each other, but they are plagued by the prejudices of those around them. The book challenges the worlds that we create--and pushes you to see beyond. There is more to the novel than the romance, as it addresses the identity that we give ourselves based on our color, and our awareness of the skin we are in. I loved the writing in the novel, and especially enjoyed the poem "If You Come Softly" by Audre Lorde that is weaved throughout the novel.


Jamie PoormanAPA Citation: Woodson, J. (1998). If you come softly. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.Genre: MulticulturalFormat: Print (hardcover, 181 pages)Selection Process: School Library Journal review, Elisha (Ellie) and Jeremiah (Miah) couldn’t appear more different from one another - she an upper-middle class white Jewish girl and he a tall, thin, curly haired African American boy - but they are more alike that anyone knows. Both fifteen year old sophomores in their first semester at Percy Academy, an exclusive private school in New York City, they share the experience of troubled family situations. Ellie’s father is an overworked physician and her mother has unexpectedly abandoned the family (and returned) twice in Ellie’s childhood. Jeremiah’s parents are a famous movie director and an author who now live across the street from one another after his father’s affair tore the marriage apart - with all the tabloids watching. Ellie and Miah meet on their first day at Percy, when they bump into one another. It is several weeks before they meet again, but both continue to think about the other. Their romance blossoms - in a very sweet, first-love manner between the two of them and with disapproval from most of their family and classmates. Miah, seemingly more comfortable in his own skin, introduces Ellie to his mother, and the teens find a safe haven in her home. Ellie, however, is reluctant to face the reaction of her own parents. On the day she decides to tell them about Miah, he is shot and killed, mistaken for a criminal in Central Park. This is a wonderfully written book. Alternating between Ellie’s first person narrative and a third person view of Miah, the reader is drawn into the private worlds of both teens. There are many different themes explored throughout the book, but all are given the appropriate attention by the author and allow the reader to reflect on their own values and those of society. For instance, Ellie’s older sister, Anne, was not treated kindly by the family when she first revealed she was a lesbian, yet it is Anne who is first to disapprove of Ellie’s relationship with someone who is different. Highly recommended.


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


JACQUELINE WOODSONIf You Come Softly depicts a love story between black Jeremiah and white Ellie in Manhattan, NY. Even though the book takes place in the 1990s, Jeremiah and Ellie experience racial tendencies against their relationship. Family and friends alike disdain of the match, but Jeremiah and Ellie love each other enough to ignore other people's comments. Also during the novel, Ellie struggles with her relationship with her mother, and Jeremiah has a rough time with his father relationship. Both children feel betrayed by their parent in some way and cannot forgive everything their parent has done. Ultimately, though, it is society who wins the day and decides that Jeremiah's blackness is dangerous and undesirable. Despite society, Ellie remains open-minded and unprejudiced.This novel adopts my favorite narrative form, which is alternating narratives. I love receiving multiple characters opinions as I think it adds another element to the story. Woodson's book is applicable to teenagers as it depicts a current racial prejudice intertwined with a love story. Often, teens are drawn to love stories as they, too, experience love. The inclusion of racial tendencies is important as teens should be aware of those social injustices happening around them.

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.

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.


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.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *