• Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Romance
  • 224 pages
  • 7.99 USD
  • published by Penguin Books
  • more information

content warning (may be incomplete):

  • racism / racist violence
  • police violence
  • queer antagonism
  • death

how I found this book

A fandom I’m involved with, the Nerdfighteria, recently got launched a book club, initiated by John Green and Rosianna Halse Rojas, called the Life’s Library Book Club. A few days before the official launch in December 2018 I signed up for one of the discord servers where the books are meant to be discussed (I’m part of the Ivy Community, if any of you were wondering), and a shortwhile before Congress I found out, that If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson was the book choice for the first reading period between December 24, 2018 – February 4, 2019. I have this talent that I always tend to get out of sync in online book clubs, so I started reading this book later as it meant to be and finished a few days earlier, not having had the possibility of joining the discussion on discord, since my January was a bit of a mess (as in full of adult-ish things to do). It only felt right recommending the book and sharing a few thoughts on here, since it wouldn’t make sense joining the discord discussions that late.

where I read this book

I read this book mostly at home, since I haven’t left the place where I live in January and mostly worked from home. But since my purple snuggie (those blankets with arms and pockets) arrived and my flat shares kitchen provided me an enormous amount of different flavours of tea, that was a reasonably good choice for such a cold month!

what is it about?

Jacqueline Woodson siad herself in the Preface to the Anniversary Edition, that she wanted to write a modernist retelling of Romeo & Juliet, taking place in contemporary (read 1998) New York, asking herself the question who Romeo & Juliet may be if they were living today. The book tells the story of Jeremiah, a Black boy, and Ellie, a Jewish girl, both attending a rather fancyish school, the Percy Academy, in Manhattan. They both met at their first day in sophomore year, both being 15, as they bump into each other in the hallway. Eventually a relationship comes into being, and the book tells the story of a first love, as well as the experiences Jeremiah makes in a hostile and racist environment. The book is a really powerful read when it comes to its description of experiences with racism and the disheartening racist violence, not only caused by other Percy students, but also by relatives of Ellie, and the police (racist police violence plays a major role in the plot).

for what situation is this a good read?

I would recommend reading this book in a quiet and comfy place, with enough time to process the story, since it’s not an easy read as it approaches racist violence and police violence, while not having a happy but rather an disheartening and sad ending. I’ve read it on days where I have had enough time to get into the book and process the plot in a, for me, appropriate way. I would say, that this is one of the most important reads in my bookshelf.

do I recommend this book?

Yes, definitely. Along with The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas) and If I Was Your Girl (Meredith Russo), this is one of the most important books I’ve read within the last years. The book approaches many social issues, such as racism and queer antagonism (when Ellie’s sister Anne calls, she warns Ellie about lesbian relationships; in case anyone is wondering where this is being addressed), while telling a coming of age love story which may have had a sad and disheartening ending. The clear and awesome narration and writing, Ellie tells her story in first person, Jeremiahs story is being told from a third person perspective), of Jacqueline Woodson from a dual point-of-view just rounds up this amazing read.