I’ve been interested in this book for awhile, and after hearing Elizabeth Acevedo give her National Book Award speech I knew I needed the audiobook. Thankfully my library had a copy and I was able to get started very quickly.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.
With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
First of all, Elizabeth Acevedo has an amazing voice. I love when audiobooks are read by the authors. Each word seems to hold more meaning and pack more of a punch coming from the author’s own mouth. Acevedo’s passion helped shape Xiomara’s character in my mind and really made the story seem more real.
The story itself is beautifully written. Most teens can identify with some part of Xiomara: how she pours her feelings into her art, how she doesn’t want to disappoint her parents but doesn’t want to sacrifice her own happiness to do so, how she is constantly ogled by the guys in her school and her neighborhood against her wishes, how she sees herself as different. My heart was aching for Xiomara, especially during the parts where she is interacting with her very religious mother.
There are so many different conflicts within this book. Xiomara is exploring her romantic feelings toward one of her classmates, she is growing apart from her twin, she is trying to find her own voice, she is constantly fighting battles with her parents, and she is questioning the religion she has grown up in. That’s a lot for one book, but it all works together so nicely. On top of that, not every conflict is tied up neatly, which I think makes the story more realistic.
I don’t know exactly what is stopping me from giving this book a full five stars. I really loved the story, the characters, and the narration, but it feels like something was missing. I don’t usually listen to audiobooks or read poetry, so that might be what is holding me back. I think I would have had a better reading experience if I had been reading the book while listening to the audiobook. I feel like I missed out on the structure of the book, but I absolutely loved listening to the author’s narration. Regardless, I would really recommend reading or listening to this book. It resonates with so many teenagers and holds important messages for everyone, no matter what their age is.