With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Rating:

More like With My Feelings On High. Seriously, at this point Acevedo might as well take my credit card information, because I’m not even taking a second glance at whatever book she comes out with next before ordering it

Wow M, what is this glorious book about? Well Suzan, I’m glad you asked. With The Fire on High follows Emoni a Latinx sixteen year old mom. Since Emoni was little she’s had a strong passion for cooking. More than that: she’s good at it. In fact, her dishes are known to have a sprinkle of magic that takes you back to a special memory. However, now that graduation is around the corner Emoni is struggling to figure out what she wants to do about her future and whether or not cooking will be at the center of it. 

Before we get to the meat of it all let’s start with one of the main things that makes me fall in love with Acevedo’s work. That prose? I realize how snobbish I sound but my golly. It’s just so…Beautiful. Lyrical. Simply magical. I have yet to read from another author that makes me melt with how nuanced and musical their writing is. Honestly, a true gem. If I could highlight the whole book I would. 

But taking it a step further: a beautiful book with beautiful representation. The Poet X quickly became one of my favorite novels of all time, because it was the first time I’d seen myself in a book that wasn’t The House On Mango Street. No shade to Cisneros on that, because that my friends is also a true gem. What I mean is it was the first time that I realized how important representation is. I cried just from reading someone’s perspective that resembled my own (and I’m not a crier!) So I’m forever grateful to Acevedo and her work, which fight the good fight, and help build a world in which beautiful Latinx main characters may exist. 

Now, getting to the book content itself. I loved the author’s take on relationships in all aspects of Emoni’s life. They all felt fully alive and complex as most relationships in one’s life are. Starting with Abuela which I felt was a special touch, because how many kids grow up with their grandparent being a primary guardian? It wasn’t my case growing up, far from it, but I think representation of that is touching to anyone’s reflected reality. Even just the interactions between Emoni and her baby daddy’s mother felt fully fleshed out. Something that sadly happens too often are bitter mothers lashing out at their sons’ girlfriends, because they’re afraid of their babies leaving the nest. 

Speaking of baby daddy: I loved that Emoni didn’t end up with her baby’s father. I think there’s a lot of emphasis out there on staying with the father of your child, an admirable and selfless effort, but sometimes you have to realize that if the only thing keeping you two together is that child, then that not may be the most healthy nor fulfilling relationship. Still, they were able to coparent without any animosity, which is another element I much appreciated. 

Additionally, it’s not main component of the story but I’m glad Emoni was able to find a romantic relationship despite everything. So often we pass judgment on pregnant teens and warn them off guys forever, but that doesn’t need to be the case. I thought Emoni (and thus Acevedo) handled the whole thing in a mature and beautiful light. 

Finally, I love a book with passion. I myself am passionate about work and truly get a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction from it. I had yet to read a book about that passion aimed toward cooking and boy did I love it. (Perpetual hunger is the new thang y’all.) No, but for real, I love how passionate Emoni was about the culinary arts. I love the exploration of how talent doesn’t always mean success. Emoni is clearly talented in this field and yet Chef gave her a difficult time for not following instructions. Sometimes it’s hard to sober up and listen to critiques when you feel like you’ve got a gift, but often times the most gifted are the ones who’ve got the most to learn. 

All in all, I thought this was a fantastic sophomore novel. Quite different from The Poet X, but just as rich and poignant. I’d also like to give a bonus star to the talk of university. I think a lot of people forget that different people can get to the same place through different means (including not going to college). Overall, I felt that Acevedo explored a variety of topics in a meaningful yet easy way that I think will be beneficial to a lot of teens. Even if I did feel like she said Babygirl too often. 

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