«With the Fire on High» was my first Elizabeth Acevedo book and now I understand why there has been so much hype around her books. The writing is beautiful, flaws seamlessly, which made the whole reading experience an absolute pleasure from the beginning till the end.
This is one of those “unputdownable” books that will make you addicted to the story and the characters from the very first pages.
As I mentioned in my July Monthly Goals post, this month I’m traveling to one destination every week. My first choice was neighbor-country Spain and I decided to start with «With the Fire on High» by Elizabeth Acevedo. To be frank, it was a PERFECT choice for multiple reasons:
- Most of the events take place in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) so technically speaking I also visited the USA last week, but a big part of the book is about Emoni’s new cooking class and the opportunity to travel to Spain. I loved that “preparation” period. It gave me the feeling of getting ready for a trip!
- The trip to Spain was to one of the cities I’ve been to twice now – Seville! I even went there this February! [I spoke about it in my February wrap up post].
- My next book will be the perfect continuation of this journey, as the main character of the next one will be traveling from Spain to Egypt! Isn’t that exciting? I didn’t even do it on purpose 😀
Shall we talk about the actual book now? 😁
Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.
I had no idea how amazing Elizabeth Acevedo writing was! It’s poetic, easy to read, and incredibly captivating. After finishing «With the Fire on High» all I wanted to do was to pick up her other books, especially «The Poet X». I think it will make its appearance in The Reading Rush TBR. If you’ve read multiple Acevedo books, I’d love to know which one was your favorite.
Besides being the first book by Elizabeth Acevedo, this was also my first book about a teenage mom. I admired Emoni so much. Looking back at myself when I was 17, I was definitely not prepared to take care of myself, let alone another human being. I don’t think we can ever be ready to have children, and even as I approach my 30s, I still am scared of the responsibility that will come if we ever decide to have kids.
Watching Emoni do it all on her own (with a little help from her grandma) was fascinating. She was finishing high school, looking after a toddler, working part-time, and trying to keep it all together. And as most of the seniors, Emoni needed to figure out what her life will be like after school. But unlike her classmates, she couldn’t pursue her wishes diving heedlessly into new opportunities. She had a daughter to think of and her plans needed to accommodate them both in a best way possible.
I really found this book very uplifting, especially for all teenage girls who’d find themselves in a similar position. Nowadays, society seems to “condemn” girls that get pregnant while still in school, and this story showed just how full of joy your life can be.
The focus of the book was Emoni, and that was very clear from the beginning. I wish other characters would have gotten a little bit more backstories or development, but I understand the importance of the message Elizabeth Acevedo tried to transmit to her younger audience. Maybe this was a deliberate choice, (1) to not make this book too long for YA contemporary genre, (2) show Emoni’s different sides, and (3) to keep readers’ attention on the things that mattered the most.
I spoke a lot about the representation of teenage mom, but I also need to mention the various discussions Emoni had about race. As an Afro-Latinx main character, racial identity was also a big part of the story.
And of course, the cooking! You know those questions that sometimes pop up in book tags – book that made you hungry? I never understood why people kept mentioning «With the Fire on High». 😀 Well… now I do. Cooking was a big part of the story as well, as one of Emoni’s greatest passions and also almost a super-power. Once again, I love how versatile Emoni’s hobby was. I definitely didn’t know many teenagers who loved to cook when I was in school!
There is so much more to say about «With the Fire on High»! Family dynamics, father-daughter relationship, friendships, “enemies”, fatherhood, and so on. I read this on Kindle so I was very surprised to discover that the book is almost 400 pages long! I gobbled it up in one evening/afternoon :O Highly recommend this one even if YA contemporary is not your usual genre!
My trip to Spain was very successful as you can see 🤩
Next destination: Egypt! ✈