Top positive review
Didn't Know What I was Getting Into
Reviewed in Canada on February 13, 2004
I should have known better...I've been touched by Jaqueline Woodson's writing before.
I picked up If You Come Softly after one of my 6th grade students recommended it to me. I read the first few chapters effortlessly, and when someone asked me what it was about, I simply said, "Not much." You see--it's not an in your face narrative. It's simple and soft, and the alternating perspectives are hardly noticed--all signs of outstanding writing. I was halfway through the book before I realized the gentle power of the story.
Ellie and Miah attend the same school and have similar views of the world, but they are so different that their sudden love for each other seems impossible. Ellie is the white daughter of a distantly married couple; her numerous brothers and sisters are older and have moved throughout the country. Miah is the black son of celebrities who have recently separated. Both teenagers attend the exclusive Percy School, which is where they meet by chance and fall in love. Despite the stares and whispers, they choose to stay together and learn more about each other. Their love is mature and real (and the author spares us from unnecessary sex scenes). We know from page one that tragedy awaits this relationship, but it doesn't damper the unfolding of their relationship and our interest in the potential of their lives. They love each other innocently and completely, and they tip-toe cautiously into the world of each other's families.
Woodson demonstrates a world view through the voices of these two high school characters--they understand more about race relations than most adults do. There are times, however, when their views of races seems too simplistic--perhaps this was intentional, or perhaps this is Woodson's own view. It's too easy to group together all "whites" or all "blacks" and to create stereotypes of old ladies who stare. But the overall message is appreciated.
I can't say enough about the gentle nature of this story. How an author can provoke so much emotion in such a delicately written story is truly amazing. Woodson is a masterful writer, and this story is perfectly told.