Book Review: With the Fire on High

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My best of the year so far!

I normally cannot stand to read poetry, so when I heard all the buzz surrounding Elizabeth Acevedo’s book, The Poet X, I brushed it off assuming it wasn’t for me. After reading this novel I’m now kicking myself and have already put it on hold at the library.

With the Fire on High tells the story of Emoni Santiago, a high-school senior and mother of 2-year-old Emma, more commonly known as “baby girl.” Emoni is balancing her life between caring for her daughter and dealing with her ex’s family, going to school, college applications, boys, and her increasing questions about her future. The one thing Emoni loves as much as her daughter is cooking and being able to touch people’s lives through food. When a culinary arts class is made available at her school, complete with a one week trip to Spain to study food, Emoni is desperate to go. But how can a girl already balancing so much afford not only the time to take the class but also the money to afford Spain?

I absolutely adored this book. I love reading teen titles, and this is easily one of the best in my recent memory. Emoni is such a well rounded and interesting character. Acevedo gives Emoni qualities that make her feel like a real girl I know and if I could pick a word to describe this book it would be authentic. I felt like I was living with Emoni, and although I’ve never experienced half of what she has, I could relate to her struggle, her love for her family, and her desire to build a life for herself on her own terms. I find most books about teenage pregnancy focus so much on what it’s like being pregnant that they often all feel the same. This title drops us in after all that has happened, and it’s not about being a pregnant teenager. Instead, it’s about being a woman overwhelmed by her responsibilities, which is a very relatable topic.

The discussion of food in this book was just another cherry on top of an already great mix. I wanted to try everything Emoni cooks and I wish there were more recipes in the book! This is one of those books I found so hopeful, so interesting and insightful that I already know Elizabeth Acevedo is one of those authors I will immediately buy every book by in the future. Do yourself a favor and check this out ASAP.

Title: With the Fire on High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 392
ISBN: 9780062662835

Three Descriptors: Hopeful, Authentic, Engaging

Read Alikes:
I am not your perfect Mexican daughter by Erika L Sanchez
Gabi, a girl in pieces by Isabe Quintero
Salty, bitter, sweet by Mayra Cuevas
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

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