Book review – With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Caidyn's review (1)

With the Fire on High

4/5

CW: teen pregnancy, death of a mother, father abandonment, and girl-on-girl hate


First thing I want to say is that this isn’t my culture and I’m not an ownvoices reviewer. I will not be able to pick up on the nuances of culture, although I really appreciated and loved reading the Afro-Latinx culture and how rich it is.

Emoni is a teen mother to a three-year-old, Emma/Babygirl, juggling school, work, and her love of cooking. Her mother died and her father went back to Puerto Rico, so she was raised by her grandmother, ‘Buela. Ever since Emoni was a child, she loved cooking and she works magic with it. She has a tense relationship with Tyrone, Babygirl’s father, but manages it. Her best friend, Angelica, has recently come out as gay and is living her best life with her girlfriend, Lauren.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I loved the themes of cooking and following your dreams and balancing responsibilities. And, for Emoni, she’s just seventeen. She’s a baby herself by my standards. And, damn, she does a great job. I loved reading about the generational support, something that I don’t always have in my family. I’m vaguely close with all my grandparents and I hate asking them for anything since that’s just not what our family does.

The story also isn’t a romance. Or, it has a side plot of a romance, but it’s more about the importance of family. I really loved that. It made it easier for me to read the more “romantic” parts. Plus, Emoni puts her daughter and her needs first. That’s something I loved. It was just about family and a young woman leaning on her family to get through these hard times.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the girl-on-girl hate, though. Along with the whole “pretty girls are mean” trope. There’s a character called Pretty Leslie and I was tired of how she was mean and her one identifier was that she was pretty. Honestly, it was annoying. I did enjoy how things ended up between them, but I just wasn’t a fan. I understood it. I was in high school, after all. I know how you hate attractive and popular people. But it got tiring as the book went on.

One thing I really connected with was Emoni’s love of cooking. I don’t talk about it a lot, but each Saturday for almost a decade now have cooked together. My mom’s not a cook and doesn’t like it, but my dad loves cooking. He passed that on to me because I love cooking too. Each Saturday, we come up with some big meal so when my mom gets home from work we sit down and eat. It’s really nice. I love cooking. While I don’t have the intuition like Emoni does, cooking is still a huge passion for me.

The long and short of this review is that I really enjoyed it. There were aspects that I didn’t like, but I loved the theme of family and that it was very light on the romance. I’d definitely revisit this book and read another Acevedo book.


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8 thoughts on “Book review – With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

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