Review: If You Come Softly, Jacqueline Woodson



I particularly hate to say meh when it’s a young-adult book to which I am saying it, because I feel like if I say meh to a young-adult book, I am becoming one of those people who turn up their noses at young adult books and do not pay any attention to YA rock stars like Laurie Halse Anderson and Patrick Ness and, well, and Jacqueline Woodson.  I am not one of those people!  Except that I have only read one of Jacqueline Woodson’s books after hearing about her all over the place, and it was If You Come Softly, and I could have lived without it.

It’s about a Jewish girl and a black boy at a fancy private school, and they fall in love.  There was no single aspect of the book that I disliked.  I thought it was great that Woodson didn’t dive into the pool of forbidden love clichés, with raging, unreasonable parents.  Miah and Ellie were both fully realized characters with fully realized family backgrounds and problems in their lives.  Woodson touches on a lot of YA staples – race, gay characters, divorce, abandonment – without turning the book into a by-the-numbers YA Issue Book.

Still, though: Meh.  Turns out, avoiding pitfalls is not enough to make a book awesome.  I like it that Woodson didn’t get all Romeo-and-Juliet melodrama on us, but I got a bit bored with the quiet, peaceful tone.  I wanted some ACTION.  And when something finally did happen, it was, let us say, unsatisfactory to me.

I have not been reading very much lately.  I reread the first through third Harry Potter books, and I’ve been reading this one book about modern India, but I am stressed about moving, and when I’m stressed, I read fewer new books.  I watched The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy and then I saw this interview where Matt Damon called James Bond an imperialist misogynistic sociopath, so then I watched him on Inside the Actors Studio to see what other awesome things he would say.  And you know, when I watch one episode of Inside the Actors Studio, I have to watch ten more.  So I have been doing that too.

Other reviews:

Regular Rumination
Rhapsody in Books
Book Addiction
My Friend Amy
Reading in Color
Maw Books Blog
One Librarian’s Book Reviews
You’ve GOTTA Read This!

Tell me if I missed yours!

23 thoughts on “Review: If You Come Softly, Jacqueline Woodson

  1. Don’t worry; we’d never think you were one of those people! And I believe Heather at Book Addiction felt much as you did, so you’re not entirely alone 😛 I loved this book, but I think that back when I read it I wasn’t aware of how widely beloved it was. And expectations can make a world of difference.

    Sorry about the stress :\ I hope the move goes well!

    • I’m hoping that my expectations will be so low going into the next Woodson book I try that I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I feel like that should be the flip side of when you read the second book by an author whose first book you loved and it’s really lame.

      Thanks for the good wishes on the move! 🙂

    • Mm, yeah, probably. That’s part of the reason I don’t do a lot of fresh reading (is there a word like “rereading” but it means reading a book for the first time?) when I’m stressed.

  2. SAAAADNESSSSSSSS. I loved this book! But like Nymeth, I had no prior expectations for it. We know you’re not one of those people who turns their noses up at YA books, don’t worry about that!

  3. I would definitely not think you were some snob who refused to read YA, you give YA a chance quite often!

    I’m sorry you didn’t love this one too, but I totally understand how you feel about the lack of action. Maybe try another Woodson title? I don’t have any recommendations since this was my first YA Woodson title too.

    I hope your move gets less stressful 🙂

    • It’s about as low-key a move as you can imagine, but I hate change, so that’s my whole deal. :p

      I will definitely try another Woodson. With so many good reviews of her out there in the blogosphere, how could I not?

  4. I am only slightly ashamed to admit that I have not heard of Jaqueline Woodson (or Patrick Ness, for that matter), but I believe I have read that book. Or was it the one about the country boy and the city invalid who fall in love? Or the greaser and the debutante? Or the boy and the fawn? Or the vampire and the werewolf? Aw, now I’m all confused.

    I so know moving stress! I was comforted when I read that a study showed it is the single most stressful thing you can experience. On a par with parental bereavement and losing a job. I can’t say I know how they measure these things…

    I wish you cozy TV and reliable authors. And don’t worry. This time (I’m guessing, here) next month you will be Someplace Else, one way or another. Even if fall into a packing-induced fugue state, I’m betting your family would pull you out the door and start throwing your belongings willy-nilly into boxes and loading them into cars.

    • Well, I can’t speak to Woodson, but you are missing out by not reading Patrick Ness. His books are incredible.

      Yeah, moving’s awful, and I hate change, and all my stuff’s in boxes, and I’m fretting about my books – blech. I do appreciate studies that validate me though. My crankiness is based in SCIENTIFIC FACT.

  5. I may have been affected by the sob factor at the end. That always makes me feel like a book has impact!

    I join with the Other Jill (she claims *I’m* the other Jill but in fact SHE is the OTHER one!) in wishing you a successful move!

    • I didn’t get invested enough in the characters for the ending to have so much of an impact on me. I think if the end had packed the wallop it intended, I’d have had a far different reaction.

      *laughs* I’ve conceded Shelf Love’s Jenny to be Proper Jenny, and accepted my place as Other Jenny – but you keep fighting the good fight! :p And thanks for the good wishes.

  6. I loved this book, but I have always thought I could understand why people wouldn’t love her books because, well for one thing, they are quite short! And while I think they dont’ need to go on any longer…I was waiting for someone to feel meh about these books. 🙂

    But her short story in No Such Thing as the Real World totally killed me.

    • I do prefer longer books. Not necessarily chunksters, but longer than this is better for me. On the other hand, Angela Johnson’s The First Part Last was equally short, and I felt a very strong emotional connection with that one.

  7. I just started rereading the Harry Potter series yesterday (that is to say, I’ve reread half of the first book) and oh! the comfort reading!

    Good luck with your move. Big or small, moving is never fun.

  8. Nymeth is right, I didn’t love this book either. I didn’t connect with the characters in the ways I wanted to, and I LOATHED the ending. Blech. BUT I am happy to see these types of themes discussed in YA literature, as so many teens don’t understand the broader world around them, don’t see how racism is still alive and well in the world today, etc. And I think Woodson writes really well for teens. Just, If You Come Softly wasn’t excellent for me – so you’re not the only one! I’m willing to give her another chance, though, which I plan to do sooner rather than later.

  9. I don’t read very much YA, and for that reason, I am not really that familiar with Woodson or her books. That being said, it always bothers me when everyone else loves a book that I only find average. It makes me question my taste sometimes! I also find Damon’s quotes about Bond curious and interesting, and would love to hear more about that!

  10. “I am becoming one of those people who turn up their noses at young adult books and do not pay any attention to YA rock stars ”

    I don’t turn up my nose but I certainly don’t pay any attention to YA rock stars! Is there something wrong with the fact that I don’t care to read YA? Just wondering.

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