Monday, February 2, 2009

Book Review

If You Come Softly
Jacqueline Woodson
4/5 stars

Elsie is Jewish and Jeremiah is black but If You Come Softly is not a syrupy slick, modern spin of teen Othello. It is an incredibly beautiful story about first love. Woodson is an astute observer of character. We see this in the way this young couple navigates through their own emotions as well as how they react to others’ behavior and attitudes toward them. This novel forgoes the love conquers all cliché. Instead, this is murky and honest, the fumbling and failings that many of us teens and adults alike have never put into words.

What I really love is that Woodson deftly addresses complex issues in an accessible, authentic way. The teens' voices ring true in her work; she examines the nuances of attitudes and behavior surrounding race, sexual orientation, family dynamics and social norms with a subtlety that affects the reader without clobbering her audience with morality or judgment.

Here is a prolific writer who clearly understands how teens process their emotions and experiences of being a young person coming into their own. So far, I've read From The Notebooks of Melanin Sun, Maizon At Blue Hill, The House You Pass On The Way, Dear One, I hadn’t Meant To Tell You This, Lena and After Tupac and D Foster. All of these works are well-written, engaging and page-turners. Woodson is one of those authors whose entire body of work you want to read. I am looking forward to the experience.

If you haven't read Woodson, do. And if you're looking for realistic fiction for the teen whom isn't big on reading or is likely to relate better to characters who are more real than fantasy, I recommend Woodson. I can't say enough about this author.


Wanda said...

I know this book, haven't read it but I remember it from when my daughter picked it up from the library. It was what she was reading when she went to Cuba with her African Heritage Lit class.

I'll keep an eye out for more Woodson...

susan said...

Hi Wanda, Please let me know when you read something by Woodson. I'd like to hear what you think. Thanks,