March 16, 2010

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Date Started: March 15, 2010
Date Finished: March 15, 2010

Summary: Elisha "Ellie" Eisen is Jewish and Jeremiah "Miah" Roselind is Black. Their love was love at first sight, but the stigma of Blacks and Whites dating outside of their respective races are frowned upon, especially in the prep school environment and upper class New York.

Likes: The writing was the best part of the novel in my opinion. The themes, however heavy handed they seemed, were well written and concise. When Miah described why he felt uncomfortable in his own skin, I found myself nodding in agreement. I feel like the characters were fully rounded for the small bits of them that we did see. None of the characters seemed to come off as carcicatures or stereotypes. This is where the story does not fall flat. The plot is a little thin, but the characters make the story come alive. This is the typical boy meets girl situation, but the story makes a commentary about contemporary racism and how more subtle and destructive it can be.

Dislikes: The theme was extremely heavy handed in my opinion. I understood that Ellie was White/Jewish and Miah was Black, but that was all that the story was about. All their interactions together are summarized and while the scenes that we do get of them together are sweet, I don't feel like there was enough of those moments. I feel like this story could have benefited from clarifying what happened with Jeremiah at the end, and get into the characters feelings about the situation. The ending action was so sudden that I had to read it about three times to figure out what happened. I didn't feel like the ending was satisfying because, I hate to say, it felt like a cop out in some ways. I know that ending is alluding to the greater society, but I think the novel stopped at a pivotal point in the story and missed an opportunity to show whether Ellie's family accepted Miah's blackness or rejected it. At the end, they didn't really have much of a choice in the matter.  (There's a sequel to the story, so ignore this point)  I also felt that this story might have have made more of an impression with me if I were younger. I feel that they were sheltered and naive, which isn't a problem, but given their individual experiences, they didn't seem to act their age.

Overall: I liked the novel for it's beautiful writing. It's a simple story, almost a little too simple for my tastes. I didn't hate the novel, but I didn't exactly love it either. It was good. I think I might have loved this story if I were younger. I feel that I'm a bit too old for this story, but it's a good story either way.

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