Review: Elizabeth Acevedo – With the Fire on High

I’ve gotten into a pretty good rhythm when it comes to consistently posting on my blog, but one thing I do struggle with is writing and posting reviews. I do always write (short) Goodreads reviews of what I read, but for some reason it’s a lot harder to post those on my blog. I want to share reviews more often though, so why not start with a new favourite that I just finished yesterday: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo.

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Rep: Afrolatinx MC, multiple black and (Afro)latinx side characters, lesbian side character

CWs: teen pregnancy, racism, past death of family members, mention of a shooting, vomiting

This book made me feel so warm inside. It deals with some topics that can be quite heavy to discuss, like teenage parenthood and poverty, but it’s like it wraps those topics in a blanket and makes the best of them, which makes this such a heartwarming, uplifting book.

I was thinking about why this book felt so groundbreaking to me when it’s actually “just” a slice-of-life kind of story, and I think I just haven’t come across many books with a main character of colour that were written like this. Of course I can’t speak for this because I’m white, but it’s hard to miss that most characters of colour always have to battle all the odds that are stacked against them. I think it’ll be really important to a lot of people to see a character who instead (without denying that there are things that make her life harder) is supported by her family and her community, and who isn’t set up to fail but is very much set up to succeed in life.

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive when I found out this book was prose, and not a verse novel like The Poet X. But I can’t imagine why I thought it might be less well written because of that. Acevedo’s writing style is exactly as beautiful and evocative, and since I listened to the audiobook for The Poet X, I could almost hear her read some fragments.

Not to mention, this book made me so hungry. There are so many descriptions of amazing sounding food, and even recipes, and I want nothing more that to try all of it.


8 thoughts on “Review: Elizabeth Acevedo – With the Fire on High

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  1. Amazing review! I’ll admit that the big reason I want to read this book is because of the cover, It’s so stunning! But after your review, it definitely sounds like something I will love! I can’t wait to finally get to it (and The Poet X)

    Liked by 1 person

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