If You Come Softly

by Jacqueline Woodson

Hardcover, 1998



Local notes

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G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (1998), Edition: First Edition, 192 pages


After meeting at their private school in New York, fifteen-year-old Jeremiah, who is black and whose parents are separated, and Ellie, who is white and whose mother has twice abandoned her, fall in love and then try to cope with people's reactions.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

192 p.; 5.82 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member MissBoyer3
Two 15 year olds, Jeremiah (Miah) who is black, and Elisha (Ellie) who is white, meet during their first year at an exclusive New York prep school and fall in love. Both teens are also dealing with difficult family situations. Miah's father has left his mother for another woman, and Ellie is trying
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to fight through her feelings about her mother, who twice abandoned her family for extended periods. The teenagers must also deal with the subtle and not-so-subtle bigotry that they are subject to as a mixed-race couple. Miah and Ellie go about working through their problems, both individually and together, and their relationship continues to blossom, giving readers a shared sense of contentment.
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LibraryThing member chosler
15-year-old Ellie, a Jewish girl whose mother has twice abandoned the family and has trust issues, falls in love with 15-year-old Miah, the black son of a famous movie producer and novelist who have recently split up. Story is told from alternating perspectives, looking at how each copes with their
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feelings and those of the world around them. Miah ends up being accidently shot by the police. No red flags. Ages 12+.
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LibraryThing member Alina100
Elisha, a Jew falls in love with Jeremiah who is black. They both entered the relationship knowing the obstacles they were going to face as a result of their different racial backgrounds. Their love was strong enough to stand the hardships they experienced. They each brought out the best in each
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other and performed very well at school. Jeremiah had courage to introduce Elisha to his mother. However, Elisha was not sure how her parents would react. Her sister had disapproved of her dating a Black when she first announced her crush on Jeremiah. The day she was going to introduce him, he was shot by the police for being in a wrong place at the wrong time (a black man in a white neighborhood).
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LibraryThing member tlwood
The miracle of first love leaves an indelible mark on the lives it touches. It defies explanation or reason. It just is, and it’s right—no doubt about it. Just ask Ellie and Miah as they both near the end of their first year at Percy, a private school in Manhattan.
The both felt their
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connection on the first day of school just months ago, which soon became deep and blossomed into romance. Sadly, they soon discover that society is still not ready to accept the genuineness and integrity of their relationship, simply because he is black and she is white.

If You Come Softly gives voice to Ellie in one chapter and to Miah in the next, repeated throughout. The reader is privy to their emotions, their questions, their frustrations, their hopes and dreams, as they deal with tough family issues, identity issues, as well as their acceptance, excitement, and love of each other. The senseless and tragic ending might be too extreme (though certainly not unrealistic) for some young adults because the subtle foreshadowing might be buried in the “first love” experience. Nevertheless, this is an excellent book for young adults as they explore the nature of relationships and learn about love.
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LibraryThing member IEliasson
If You Come Softly is so skillfully written and has such exquisite plot complexity it’s hard to believe it has RL 6. But it does, and maybe that’s what makes it flow so beautifully. The shift between narrators Jeremiah and Elisha is unforced and extremely effective; both characters are richly
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developed, as are the sympathetic supporting characters of the parents. The two young lovers are achingly familiar and sympathetic, and their interracial dilemma is thoughtfully explored instead of exploited. Even though there is foreshadowing aplenty of the tragic ending, the reader keeps hoping and rooting for these star-crossed lovers, and when the tragically poetic climax transpires, the catharsis the reader experiences is the stuff of Greek tragedy.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
This beautiful book for Young Adults is about star-crossed first love between a black boy, fifteen-year-old Jeremiah (“Miah”), and a white girl of the same age, Ellie, who meet at Percy Prep School in New York City. In spite of coming from relatively privileged backgrounds, both kids are
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basically lonely until they find each other.

As their relationship blossoms, they put up with a steady stream of stares and obscene remarks. They talk about it, and decide they will treat it like rain:

"Miah: Let’s say it’s rain – the people who got problems with us being together – let’s call them and their problems rain.

Ellie nodded. “Okay, they’re rain.” She smiled. “So now what?”

Miah: “So it’s not always raining, is it? But when it’s not raining, we know the rain isn’t gone forever.”

Ellie sighed. “Well a drought would be a beautiful thing.”

But in the story, it just rains harder, until one day, the downpour doesn’t stop.

Evaluation: Get the Kleenex ready and read this book. Issues of black and white, of divorce and infidelity, even of gay and straight, are touched upon in this book, with sensitivity, realism, and love. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member mrsdwilliams
Elisha (Ellie) and Jeramiah (Miah) attend the same fancy prep school. They are both new to the school, and they literally bump into each other. They are instantly attracted to each other. Though their lives are outwardly very different, they are very much alike on the inside.

Ellie is white and her
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parents are still together, but no longer in love. Ellie has several older brothers and sisters who have all moved away from home. Miah is black, the only child of a celebrity couple who has recently divorced. Both feel misunderstood and out of place at home, but find understanding in each other.

Miah and Ellie quickly start spending all of their free time together and their relationship blossoms. Though no one says anything directly to the couple, their peers (and random strangers) stare and talk about them. Miah finally introduces Ellie to his mother. Just when Ellie gathers the courage to tell her parents about Miah, tragedy strikes.

The story is told with grace and Woodson gives us lots to think about. The ending was beautiful and sad. Though it was well-done, I was a bit disappointed, if only because I wanted something more for Miah and Ellie.
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LibraryThing member mistre
If you come softly is the story of love that develops between Ellie, a white Jewish girl and Jeremiah, a black boy from a black neighborhood in Brooklyn. Ellie is the last of her siblings to live with her upper class parents in an apartment overlooking Central Park. Jeremiah’s father is a
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well-established filmmaker, while his mother is a successful writer. Jerimiah’s parents are divorced. Ellie’s mother has abandoned the family and returned on two different occasions. Jeremiah and Ellie meet at a private school named Percy Academy. As the two teenagers fall in love, they must face the way people react toward and interracial couple. There two worlds come together as they try to understand prejudices. The novel ends with a tragic accident caused by racial injustice.

Critique: If you come softly appeals to the needs of young adults. Jacqueline Woodson developed realistic characters and placed them in realistic situations. Her honesty to people’s reactions to the color of people’s skin was woven into a teenage love story. The novel followed the characteristics of multicultural fiction. The characters were from different backgrounds and family structures. The novel’s school and home setting s followed the “close to home” characteristic. The everyday issues of love and family problems also followed the characteristics of a multicultural fiction. In addition, serious issues and realism was found throughout the novel.
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LibraryThing member kayla_ann
In the fiction novel, If You Come Softly is about Jeremiah who is fifteen and black and Ellie who is fifteen, white and Jewish. They meet at a private school, fall in love and then have to deal with how society treats them because they’re an interracial couple. The story takes place in Washington
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Heights, a section of Manhattan. Ellie lives with her mother, who twice abandoned her. Ellie’s mom left when she was little, and her brothers and sisters took care of each other. Her mother came back and left again when her siblings moved out. Since Ellie is now older, she is left alone most of the time. Her dad is a doctor, therefore, he’s not home as much, but he tries to be. Her mother came back and Ellie can't trust her anymore. They try to reconnect, although it’s extremely difficult to believe and trust her mother.

Jeremiah's parents are divorced and his dad lives across the street from his mother. Jeremiah’s dad is a famous movie director and his mother is a well known author. Jeremiah is a basket ball player at Percy Academy. He’s not the only black individual in this school, but he feels out of place sometimes. His world turns upside down after he meets Ellie. The two of them fall so deeply in love, but they can’t be together because it’s too dangerous. The obstacles that they are facing are, racism, police brutality and people’s opinion. Ellie and Jeremiah seem as though they don’t care what the “world” has to say when they’re together.

Ellie’s parents don’t know about her and Jeremiah, and she’s afraid to tell them because she won’t know how they will react. Although Ellie hasn’t told her parents, Jeremiah’s mother knows about they’re relationship. Basically, both of them have this deep connection and attraction to each other, but in the cruel world they live in, it’s almost impossible for them to be together. I won’t spoil the end, but no one knows what they have until it’s gone, and that’s a hard lesson for Ellie to learn in the next novel Behind You.

I would definitely recommend this book. I recommend this heartfelt novel because it has a lot of emotion and love. In my opinion, when I start to read, I can’t stop because I want to know what happens next, or how everything turns out. If anyone decides to read this brilliant novel, you’ll most definitely want to read the squeal, Behind You, to see what happens to Ellie and Jeremiah.
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LibraryThing member mscoopsyalist
Is there such a thing as love at first sight? Miah and Ellie know there is. When Miah bumped into Ellie at Percy Prep School, their eyes met and they knew something special had happened. But Miah is black and Ellie is white and even their families may not understand this kind of love. Ellie senses
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this when she thinks, "Some mornings there is only this in the world--Jeremiah's hand reaching for my own...Only Miah's hand in mine and a voice...saying, Take this moment and run, Ellie."

This poignant story is told from both Miah's and Ellie's perspective as they meet, fall in love, and deal with their relationship in light of their own difficult family circumstances. Jacqueline Woodson has created a bitter-sweet story of love and loss.
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LibraryThing member ptnguyen
Target audience: Grade 7 and up

Fifteen-year-olds Ellie and Jeremiah feel instant attraction the first time they meet in Percy, an elite New York City Prep School. The problem is that Ellie is a white Jewish girl and Miah is an African-American boy. Their romance draws a lot of negative attention
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among their classmates and strangers. The teenage couple hides the relationship from Ellie's parents but showcases their affection in public. Although their friends at school do not openly criticize, they pretend not to see anything. The teenagers go about working on their problems, both individually and together. Their relationhip continues to flourish, providing readers with a shared sense of contentment. They are determined to withstand society's prejudice and cruelty in order to be together. The intensity of their emtions will capture our hearts. However, we ache as evidence mounts that their "perfect" love exists in a deeply flawed society.

I am drawn to this story because it is not your typical white and black relationship stereotype that I see in so many movies (dancing and and the "forbidden" relationship. Ellie and Miah are drawn to each other through shared pain. Ellie is concerned that her mother will abandon her again for an extended amount of time. Miah's parents are divorced--his father left his mother for another woman. Miah is not your average black boy from "the hood." His father is a famous director while his mother is a well-known author. Both characters are on equal footing; the only difference is their skin color.

Both Ellie and Miah are realistically portrayed. For instance, Jeremiah's "locks" and "smooth dark face and Ellie's blue-gray eyes and smooth hair. New York City is also depicted in detail, as the backgroun of Jeremiah and Ellie's relationship.

Woodson's lyrical narrative tells the story through alternating voices, Ellie's in the first person and Miah's int he third. The novel rings true with young adults as it makes subtle comments on social situations.

The story, taken from Woodson's personal background lends authencity to the story. I truly enjoyed the book because it makes me wonder how many Ellie and Miah's in our society that does not seem to be accepting interracial relationship.
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LibraryThing member johnsonblock1
This book i highly recomend; its about a girl who falls in love with a guy in her grade that she runs into in the hall! they fall in love but, they are constently stared at all the time!! but after they relize they dont care what people think!! READ IT!
LibraryThing member ewang109
Woodson, J. (1998). If you come softly. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

“I had run right into him, my math and science textbooks crashing to the floor. Then he was apologizing and I was apologizing and were both bending at the same time to retrieve them” (Woodson, 1998, p. 14).

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Jeremiah (Miah) nor Ellie knew that bumping into each other at Percy Academy would forever change their lives. They instantly fall in love with each other from this occurrence. For them it is love at first sight.

Soon they become boyfriend and girlfriend. However, their relationship is complicated because of their race and ethnicity: Ellie is white Jewish girl and Jeremiah is African-American boy from Brooklyn. Their love for each other prevails despite receiving stares and racial slurs from others. Nevertheless, nothing could prepare them for an unexpected event when Jeremiah walks home in an all-white neighborhood. Woodson uses this event to highlight the ultimate tragedy that could occur from racial injustice.

The story moves at a fast pace, which keeps readers engaged. It is also told by three different narrators: Ellie, Jeremiah, and a third-person perspective. Nonetheless, the story flows seamlessly even with three different narrators. Each perspective contributes to an overall bigger picture of Ellie and Jeremiah’s friendship and love.

However, the event of bumping into each other and falling madly in love seems slightly cliché to me. Furthermore, although the characters deal with complex issues, such as resentment, fear of abandonment, and loneliness, they did not seem completely realistic. In my opinion, Jeremiah and Ellie are too mature to be fifteen years old. At one point in the story, they profess their undying love for each other and want to marry each other. I know that the book was voted in 1999 as one of ALA’s Best Young Adult Books, but I found the love story aspect quite saccharin. For this reason, the book would be a nice addition to a school library’s young adult collection, but I do not think that it is a must-have novel. Appropriate for grades 7 and up.
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LibraryThing member mattsya
Moments of this novel are well-realized and touching, but the story is just too slight to recommend without reservations. The tragic ending, especially, is unearned and arbitrary. The relationship is a little too perfect and the troubles they face from others are told in summary rather in direct
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scenes. It is good for its non-stereotypical African-American character, and for the descriptions of its New York setting.
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LibraryThing member StonehamHS_Library
A fictional tragic love story is told when 15 year old kids, Ellie and Jeremiah have to overcome the racial differences between them. Ellie is a white, Jewish girl whose mother abandoned her twice but returns, though Ellie knows “she can never trust her 100 percent ever again.” Jeremiah is an
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African American boy who comes from a famous and divorced family, his dad being a movie producer and his mother being a writer. Ellie and Jeremiah encounter on their first day at their new prep school when they literally bump into each other. From the second they lock eyes they fall in love with each other. The fact that Jeremiah is black and Ellie is white doesn’t change the fact that they love each other; their true love comes from within. The story is moving and emotional as Ellie and Jeremiah overcome “disapproving glances from all around”, whispering voices, unsupportive family members, and rude remarks. The writing is both simple and moving as the story transitions between the lives of both kids and how they look at the brighter side of their misunderstood lives. Jacqueline keeps the reader on the edge of their seat right up in till the last page as she adds in an unexpected twist in the story.
Jeremiah and Ellie both are attending the first year at a private prep school. They first encounter when Jeremiah accidently knocks Ellie’s books down out of her hands. While scrambling to pick them up, their eyes meet and they instantly fall in love; they know they were destined to meet. From that day on, they couldn’t stop thinking about each other and they knew they had to meet again. The only problem was Ellie is a white Jewish girl, and Jeremiah is black. Jeremiah had to deal with his parents getting a divorce and the constant reminder of his grandmother’s death everywhere he looked, he felt no one could understand him. Ellie had felt the same way ever since her mother had left the family twice but later returned thinking everything could go back to normal. After searching for a while Ellie came to the conclusion that she would never see Jeremiah again considering she had only seen him that one time when they bumped into each other. One day after Ellie has lost hope, Jeremiah transferred into her class and sat next to her. The two finally started seeing each other on a regular basis and decided to go out with each other though many people would disagree that a white girl shouldn’t date a black boy. As they grew closer, they were determined to block out all the disapproval from others. Jeremiah decided that it was time Ellie met his mom and soon after Ellie realized it was time she tell her family she was dating Jeremiah. When Ellie decided to tell her parents, it was too late... -A.M
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LibraryThing member sexy_librarian
Ellie is the youngest child in a Jewish family, whose mother has abandoned her twice. Jeramiah is the only son of a famous director and a novelist, who have separated. Both feel out of place in life, until they meet each other. But is the world ready to accept their love? This is a very sweet story
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about an interracial high school couple, but I felt that it could have been more developed.
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LibraryThing member Junep
A must read for all YA's
LibraryThing member mstanley33
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson is a great multicultural book to read with sixth-eighth graders. Elisha "Ellie", a white Jewish girl, and Jeremiah "Miah", an African American boy, attend the same prep-school. Ellie and Miah run into each other and can't stop thinking about each other. They
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have the same class together and their relationship begins to grow. Ellie is scared to tell her parents about him because she is afraid what they will say. Throughout the book Ellie and Miah deal with racism. They endure stare and rude comments from strangers but their love for one another continues to grow. At the end, Ellie decides to tell her parents about Miah but life makes a brutal choice for them.

This is a great book to address the issue of racism with your students. Many students may be able to relate to the characters in this book. They may be afraid to tell their parents something or they may have been a victim of racism. I would use this book as a literature circle.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
I've read almost all of this authors books. She is an incredible writer who deals with difficult subjects without over reaction. Her style is lovely and lyrical, and she is one of my favorite authors.

In this book she writes of two 15 year old young adults who attend a prestigious private school in
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NYC. Jeremiah is African American; Ellie is Jewish and white. Jeremiah's movie producer father left his mother in pursuit of a younger woman. Ellie's mother abandoned her family twice, thus leaving her with a sense of mistrust of relationships that can last.

As the two form a very significant bond; they face a lot of bumps in the road. Again Woodson writes in a wonderful fashion. While two teenage people falling in love might sound trite, I would recommend you read this to see the magical way in which the reader is pulled into the story.
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LibraryThing member cabaty
A romance in which a young Jewish girl and a black boy fall in love after literally bumping into each other in their high school's hallway. I kept waiting for the story to start, only to reach the desperate end. A good read if you like thinking, "What? No! Really? No!" at the end of books.
LibraryThing member bookworm12
This young adult novel tells the story of two teenage who fall in love. Miah is black and Ellie is Jewish and white. Their differences melt away as they spend afternoons together in Central Park. The book is a quick read but full of heart. It was a beautiful story.
LibraryThing member DarthDeverell
In If You Come Softly, Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of Elisha (Ellie), a Jewish girl living in Manhattan, and Jeremiah (Miah), an African American boy living in Brooklyn, who go to Percy prep school and fall in love. The story itself is loosely inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and
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Juliet, with both Ellie and Miah coming from well-to-do families in their respective communities, the dualism of light and dark, Miah’s cousin Carlton loosely filling in the Benvolio role, and even a prologue that similarly summarizes the story’s significance for the reader before it begins. Those similarities aside, Woodson’s story easily stands on its own, telling a story that remains relevant twenty years after its first publication. The issues of race and Miah’s awareness of the weight it imparts, coupled with Ellie’s discussion of not noticing her own race as a result of white privilege, easily explains a concept that so many informed adults continue to struggle with. The way Miah code-switches depending on his location captures something that most writers might ignore but that adds believability to the story. While many English teachers continue to use Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, I would argue that Woodson’s novel should take its place in the curriculum. She manages to evoke feelings with the minimum amount of description so that older readers find themselves recalling their first stirrings of love while younger readers will find the characters infinitely more relatable and understandable. The book, like Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, should be on every American’s reading list.
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LibraryThing member mahsdad
Book 1 of Life's Library (John Green's online communal book club). It is a lovely but tragic YA novel written 20 years ago, but is still very prescient today. A modern quasi-retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Ellie a young white girl from an affluent family going to a prep school in NYC. Jeremiah is a
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black basketball star from an equally affluent (albeit broken) family who is just starting at the same prep school. They are immediately drawn to each other, but wary of letting their friends and especially family know of their budding relationship. It touches upon race and acceptance and in the wake of Black Lives Matter, could have been written today. Like all good tragedies, it ends as expected.

This was a very easy/quick read and I'm certainly not the target demographic, but it was a worthwhile read.


S: 12/26/18 - 1/1/19 (7 Days)
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LibraryThing member pachun
Jeremiah and Elisha, both fifteen years old unexpectantly bumps into one another and it is love at first sight. With longing anticipations to see each other again, Ellie is surprised one day to see Miah transfer into her history class. This day starts their friendship and love for one another.
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Their love and deep reverence for each other help them to overcome judgements from their peers, family members, and other people. Their relationship helps them find happiness. Something that both Miah and Ellie did not have because of their issues with their family. They plan a future together and become committed to one another. Ellie is introduced to Miah's parents, but Ellie struggles to gather up courage to confront her family. Just when she professes her love for Miah, an unexpected tragedy forces Ellie to open up about Miah.

This book described a variety of emotions young adults may feel about common issues regarding race, love, friendship, divorce, and family. It touched upon these issues through the characters' problems, but it seemed very shallow. Telling the story with multiple perspectives didn't seem to have any affect on how it can influence a reader's emotion. It was interesting though how the author chose to have Ellie's story told in first-person, while Miah's story was told with a 3rd-person narrative. It was hard to not notice that maybe ellie's story was in her words because she is female and young adult girls can probably relate to it better.

I think the book can be part of the fiction collection, but I wouldn't put it on the must have list.
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LibraryThing member electrascaife
A gut punch of a YA interracial love story. Woodson writes beautifully, as always, and knows how to wallop you right in the feels.




(177 ratings; 4)
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