Review – if you come softly by Jacqueline Woodson

if you come softly “Jeremiah twirled the saltshaker absently, wondering how long it took before you stopped missing someone.”  (pg 36)

If you come as softly
as the wind within the trees
You may hear what I hear
See what sorrow sees.

Audre Lorde

If I were the cursing type, which you know, in real life I am a little bit of the cursing type, but for some reason have a hard time writing “bad words” (it’s so final!  My mom would not be proud!), I would be saying things that start with Holy and end in it.  Just saying.


Warn me about what, you ask?  A) How good this book is.   B) How true this book is.  C) How heartbreaking this book is.

So, to help you out and give you the full health warning (without spoilers, of course), let me just break it down for you.  First a synopsis:

Jeremiah has famous parents, but he just wants to be Miah.  After their divorce, his father pays for him to go to an expensive private school named Percy.  He knows he’s going to be one of the few black students there.  On the first day, he bumps into Ellie, a pretty white girl who he instantly falls for.  The feeling is mutual, and what progresses is a sweet story about first love.  But from the very first page, we know that something is going to go wrong.

A) This book is good.  Really really good.  It’s simply written, leaving so much up to the imagination of the reader, which is something I don’t think you see as much in YA lit as you should.  The prose is careful and beautiful.  In fact, it might be perfect.

“I think I know a lot of things, Elisha.  I know everything isn’t about me.  Maybe you think you have all the answers right now because of that boy, but you don’t.  You’ll see how your life turns around on you and sets you down in some strange other place.”

“I have to study.  And there isn’t any boy.”

“The one that calls.”

“That’s just a friend from school.”

“You’ll see, Elisha – how life plays tricks on you,” she said again.

I stared out the window for a long time after she left.  All the leaves had fallen off the trees in Central Park and the sky was overcast and gray.  I could see people walking hunched over, bending against the cold.   I shivered.  Marion was wrong.  No, maybe she wasn’t wrong, but she was slow.  My life had already turned around and set me down in a strange other place.  I ran my hand across the navy blue comforter that covered my bed.  A beautiful, wonderful, perfect, perfect place.  (pg. 140)


“You think it’ll always be like this, Miah?” she asked after the woman had disappeared through the door.  “The looks and people saying stuff.  I hate it.  I mean, I really hate it.”  She sighed, pressing her head back against the lion.

He nodded, loving this about her too – that in the little bit of time they’d been together, Ellie had come to see it, to understand how stupid the world could be sometimes.

“I think of it…” Jeremiah said slowly.  “Like weather or something.  You got your rain, your snow, your sunshine.  Always changing but still constant, you know?”

Ellie frowned, shaking her head.  “That’s a bit too deep for me.”

She shivered and Miah pulled her closer to him.  “Let’s say it’s rain – the people who got problems with us being together – let’s call them and their problems rain.”

Ellie nodded.  “Okay, they’re rain.” She smiled.  “So now what?”

“So it’s not always raining, is it?  But when it’s not raining, we know the rain isn’t gone forever.”

B) This book is so realistic.  It’s not quite the same, but I know a little bit of what Miah and Ellie felt.  My Z is Chinese.  A lot of the time, we don’t even think about it, as this fact is irrelevant to us.  It means we bring different things to the table: different cultures, different habits, different ideas about life – that’s just a fancy way of saying it makes life more exciting.  But when it comes to other people, sometimes it’s not so irrelevant.  Anyway, the book: the color of their skin is important, but it is not why they are in love.  They are not in love despite their color either, and I think that’s the most important part.

C) This book is going to take your heart, rip it out of your chest, and stomp on it.  Repeatedly.  You try to read this book and NOT CRY LIKE A BABY.

Anyway, if you are participating in this challenge (or if you aren’t, but you should be), GO READ IT.  NOW.

96% – So sad.  So wonderful.  So perfect.

Other reviews:

Maw Book Blogs
Black-Eyed Susan

My Friend Amy

Susan and Maw both say that this author is one that you will want to read everything she has written.  I totally see that and I’m requesting more from the library right now.

20 thoughts on “Review – if you come softly by Jacqueline Woodson

  1. Lu,

    Great review. And you’re the second reader to ask why didn’t someone warn you.

    I will be requesting to repub this in the future. Now you know why I love Woodson. She is amazing. And yes, I was so hurt by the ending, it took me a few days to recover.

    By the way, there are other YA writers who write beautiful prose. I know many adult readers see so much bubble gum stuff that they don’t know there are real gems in the genre.

    1. Thanks, Susan! I’d love for a repub. I’m a HUGE fan of YA, so I was more referring to the simplicity that you don’t often see.

  2. I so want to read this! I was sad that The Book Depository didn’t have it – in fact, they have very few of her books 😦 The one I ended up ordering was Miracle Boys.But it really sounds like she’s altogether amazing, so I’m sure I won’t be let down.

  3. Nymeth,

    Where are you? Can I send you a book? We have several of her books.

    Lu, yes, you’re an adult. You’re younger than my oldest child. Maude, I am old. lol

    1. Haha, I totally still qualify as young adult 😀

      Really?! I’d love a book! I’m in VA. I can email you my address.

  4. Forbidden wove. Mawwiage is why we awe gavered here today. (this reminds me of Werehousecat).

    Anyways, I don’t think I would be able to read this book. I love a good cry, but yes. I loved your review though. You made me l o l.

    Oh, and, in reply to your post on my blog, I would LOVE to do a joint post with you! The trailer looks i-n-t-e-n-s-e. I don’t think I’ve gotten to those parts of the book, but I’m sure they will come about soon. Oh, and, isn’t Dorian Gray supposed to be blonde?

      1. Yeah, he does resemble him in a way. Also, I guess that is what Oskar would look like as a person. Creepy.

  5. Wonderful! It makes me want to pick it up and read. I am fond of heart breaking story. This is a brand new author for me and so its a plus!

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