Review: With Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo


My Interest

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Acevedo’s debut, The Poet X,  so I knew I had to read this the minute I could get my hands on it. When I saw that she was again performing the audio version, that was even better. What a great commute I had listening to this book!

The Story

Emoni Santiago nearly derailed her life by becoming a mom at the end of her freshman year in high school. But, thanks to her Puerto Rican grandmother and a lot of grit, she is about to graduate on time and with a true vocation–this young woman is a natural chef. As she navigates the new immersion elective in Spanish Cusine while coping with working and raising her daughter, Emoni finds there is more to herself than she ever imagined.

What I Loved

I loved that she found her first name a hindrance and fought with the baby’s father to name her daughter “Emma”–even though she always calls her “Baby Girl.” But even better than that was her approach to food. This book is part coming-of-age story, part Chocolate and part Like Water for Chocolate–but somehow totally original. The energy Emoni brings to her cooking is so real I could feel it. I could smell those herbs and spices and longed to taste everything.

As this is a Young Adult book, I was especially glad that she reveals she had almost no sexual experience–that she most likely became pregnant her first time. While Emoni acknowledges that she needs to work harder in school, she does do her work, she does follow rules, she does respect her Grandmother and she does not lose a lot of sleep over her father not being there. She does everything possible to be a responsible parent. Her pregnancy was not intended, but she has stepped up and learned to be a real parent.

I especially loved this scene in which a mean girl “outs” her as a parent:

“I force myself to keep smiling. I’m not ashamed of my baby. I’m not ashamed I had a baby. I’m not ashamed I’m a mother. I lift my chin higher. ‘Babygirl’s real good. She just started daycare little over a month ago. Thanks for asking.'”

This hard-earned maturity even leads her to set very conservative limits on a new relationship. That, to me, was as great as the cooking. Kids need to hear that it is ok to do that.

My Rating

Iron Chef!

Four Stars

I cannot wait for Acevedo’s third book! She is now one of my MUST READ authors!

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