Clover Book Club: If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
Although we love reading the newest it novel as much as anyone else, a book’s pub date has little to do with its relevance. Jacqueline Woodson's 1998 bestseller, If You Come Softly, is celebrating its twentieth anniversary, and yet, it feels more important than ever. This star-crossed love story combines themes of race, class, and culture, in one unputdownable (and incredibly readable) 200 pages. But don’t just take our word for it; see what this month’s book club hosts thought below.
Dhanya Mahesh, 18
Even in 2018, interracial marriage is still a hotly contested topic. For this reason, the new edition of Jackie Woodson’s If You Come Softly is an especially poignant and important read. It centers around two prep school students, Ellie and Jeremiah, who choose each other despite societal and family expectations.
While reading the novel, I definitely felt Ellie’s anger at her family’s implicit disapproval of her relationship with Miah. As a teenager, I also often felt the same anger and helplessness over elements that were out of my control, such as the opinions of the people around me.
My friends and I also thought the novel dealt with elements of discrimination and racism really well. My friend Eleanor noted, “In the beginning, we think that it is just Miah and Ellie’s families that will disapprove, but towards the end you realize that society’s structure itself tears the relationship apart.”
As a reader, you eventually understand that this type of discrimination is something we need to deal with as a society, rather than a problem confined to members of the upper class, such as Ellie and Miah’s families. After the book had been read and the snacks had been eaten, we all concluded that this book is a must-read for any YA fan, no matter how old.
Natalie Keim, 15
If You Come Softly is a poignant tale of romance in a changing world. The story is sweet but truthful, and the author paints an honest picture of what it is like to be a teenager in love.
It was refreshing to read a book in which teenagers in a relationship maintained their separate identities. Ellie explores her relationship with her family, while Jeremiah comes to terms about what it means to be a black teenager in America.
Even though If You Come Softly is inspired by Romeo & Juliet, it’s not a traditional love story. It’s a reminder that love and relationships are a messy thing. Pain and separation come with the territory, and Woodson's writing depicts a centuries old story with a modern twist.
If you still need another reason to read this book, it offers relevant commentary on race and politics in America. Though If You Come Softlyjust celebrated the 20th anniversary of it's release, Ellie and Miah's navigation of race rings true to this day.
A tearjerker and a page turner, this book is a perfect fit for a reader who’s looking for a romance that goes beyond the surface. Ellie and Jeremiah's tale of 21st century love is relatable to anyone who’s ever thought that no matter how hard love is, it's the most important thing in the world.
This letter was brought to you by our pals at PenguinTeen. Now that you're convinced you need to add If You Come Softly to your bookshelf asap, buy it here! (You can thank us later.)