Rating: 5 / 5
I read Elizabeth Acevedo’s THE POET X earlier this year and wound up loving it much more than I ever expected. The poetry format for the narrative and the author’s use of language was fabulous and I immediately looked up her next release and put it on my TBR.
WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH follows Emoni Santiago, a high school senior who is walking a difficult path in life. When she got pregnant as a freshman she decided to keep and raise her daughter while staying on track to graduate high school. Emoni has the love and support of the grandmother who raised her, but she needs to decide how she is going to support herself and her baby girl after graduation.
Aside from the love of her daughter and grandmother, Emoni’s true passion is cooking. She was in the kitchen from an early age and has a sixth sense about ingredients and how to make a dish work. There is a touch of magical realism about her cooking as it evokes memories and emotions in those who eat it.
Emoni gets a chance to further her culinary skills through a class at her high school and a study abroad session in Spain (boy do I wish my school had offered such a program!), but given her need to raise funds and raise her daughter, she feels like it might be an impossible dream. Still, it is undeniable that she has a gift that she needs to find a way to harness.
I was initially a little disappointed to learn that WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH would be in a more standard prose format given how much I loved the poetry of THE POET X, but I need not have worried. Acevedo’s poetic voice comes through loud and clear in this novel. Her use of descriptive language when speaking of Emoni’s culinary creations is musical and magical.
People talk a lot about auto-buy authors and Elizabeth Acevedo has very quickly become an auto-buy author for me! This is not a book you want to read hungry, but it is definitely a book you do want to read!