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Monday, December 30, 2019

Acevedo Mixes Up Magic With Sophomore Novel

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"Home.  I come from a place that's as sweet as the freshest berry, as sour as curdled milk; where we dream of owning mansions and leaving the hood; where we couldn't imagine having been raised anywhere else ... And me?  I'm pure Fairhill, but I also got more than one city, one hood inside me.  And anyone who wants to get to know me has to know how to appreciate multiple skylines" (87).  

With her Afro-Puerto Rican heritage, 17-year-old Emoni Santiago is used to the looks that ask, "What are you, exactly?"  That's a complicated question.  Emoni's many things:  a high school senior, a single mom to 2-year-old Emma, a granddaughter who looks after the abuela who raised her, an employee at the Burger Joint, a hood rat who's tough as nails, and a woman with some serious cooking woo-woo.  Her many roles keep her busy and stressed.  The only place where she feels truly free is in the kitchen, whipping up dishes that wake up not just people's taste buds, but also their memories.

Emoni knows dreams rarely come true, but the one thing she truly wants is to become a professional chef.  That way she can do what she loves while providing for her daughter and her grandmother.  She can't afford to frit away her time or her money (heaven knows, she has little of either), so when a cooking class taught by a renowned chef opens up at her school, Emoni makes herself avoid it.  Her desire and talent can't be denied, however, and soon she's proving her place.  With a thrilling travel opportunity on the horizon as well as the possibility of a new romance, Emoni has to find the courage and determination to make her dreams come true.  Nothing has come easy for her and this won't either.  Along the way she'll have to learn to swallow her pride, make tough decisions, and trust in her natural abilities not just to cook but to work hard and never, ever give up.

There's a lot to love about With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo.  It stars a strong heroine, who's surrounded by other colorful, sympathetic, likable characters.  The plot is engrossing, entertaining, and powerful.  Acevedo's prose is lyrical (not surprising since she's a poet), but approachable.  With themes of family, home, and community, it's a warm, moving novel that made for enjoyable reading.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives) and I can't remember what else (sorry, I didn't take better notes!)

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. I think Acevedo is incredible, and I loved that Emoni took responsibility for her actions, never had a pity party, had a strong group of women to support her, and never gave up on her dream. This one gave me a lot of good feels

  2. Another very good YA novel; I'm so glad you liked this one, too. It's good to be reminded of some of my favorite reads as the year comes to a close.


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