Elizabeth Acevedo’s just out here breaking my heart into a million little pieces and putting it back together again with every beautiful word she writes.
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.\
I love this author, I love this story, I love this writing, and I love this cover. That’s it, that’s the review.
Okay, not really, but if you just want the root of my review you can stop reading now because that’s all I really need to say.
If you’re still with me, allow me to tell you why I have so much love for Elizabeth Acevedo and her work!
I haven’t met Elizabeth Acevedo (yet) but she seems like such a fun, powerful, genuine, intelligent, humble, giving human being. That shines through in both her acceptance speech for the 2018 National Book Award and in her writing. It takes talent to have your own personality shine through your writing in a way that enhances the reader’s understanding of and empathy for the story rather than overpowering it.
The story told in With the Fire on High exemplifies this. Emoni is brave, strong, opinionated, and loving. She also doubts her future, struggles with feeling like she’s doing enough, and has trust issues. These strengths and insecurities combine to create a relatable, well-rounded main character that continuously made me feel for her and made me want her to succeed.
The secondary characters are all driving forces in this book and help shape Emoni while also introducing different perspectives and conflicts into the story. Angelica, Malachi, ‘Buela, Babygirl, Chef Ayden, Pretty Leslie, and even Tyrone all bring in their own stories, perspectives, and lessons that teach Emoni and keep the story moving forward. Each character, no matter how much page time they got, was unique and important in their own way.
The plot itself is very character-based and revolves heavily on what Emoni has planned for the future and how she interacts with those around her. There are definitely some external conflicts that come into play throughout the book and influence the plot, but a lot of it revolves around the characters: their motivations, their pasts, where they come from, and how they interact with one another.
With the Fire on High is Acevedo’s first novel told in prose and she did a great job. It maintained the beauty of her poetry while being easier for those of us who don’t typically read poetry to read (like me). Each sentence had a purpose and meaning that made me look through different perspectives at certain situations. Acevedo’s writing has a habit of punching me in the heart while educating me and making me reflect on what she brings up.
Beyond the story, the cover is amazing. Erin Fitzsimmons designed this cover and the cover for The Poet X. Fitzsimmons put a lot of character into such a clean, vibrant cover and it really captures the essence of the book.
I would definitely recommend this book. I love that it explores growing up, creating your destiny, understanding your roots, and being proud of who you are and where you come from all from such a powerful perspective.
I should be a spokesperson for EpicReads because I’m always hyping some of my favorite posts they’ve put out. Here are some specific to this author/book that I think you’ll enjoy if you liked the book:
Have you read With the Fire on High? What did you think of it?