September 17, 2019
Genre/Categories: Contemporary YA Fiction, Cooking, Multi-Generational Family, Coming of Age
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Emoni Santiago is a responsible, creative, and determined teenage mother. In addition to caring for her young daughter, living with and helping to support her grandmother, and navigating her classes as a high school senior, Emoni is well known for her extraordinary cooking skills. For her, cooking is an artistic adventure. A new culinary arts class is offered at her school along with a class trip to Spain. Given all her responsibilities and financial situation, can she possibly risk everything to follow her dreams?
Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars
I love an engaging, heartfelt, and inspiring YA read from time to time! Emoni has a passion for cooking and it’s evident that she has a gift. Can teen mom Emoni graduate high school and chase her dream of being a chef despite the obstacles?
There are many reasons to appreciate With the Fire on High:
Diverse Read: I love reading stories set in different cultures from mine. I especially appreciate authors and booksellers for writing and promoting diverse literature for children and young adults. It’s important for every reader to have opportunities to see themselves represented in the stories they read. In this story, we can begin to appreciate Emoni’s life from the perspective of a black Puerto Rican teen mom.
Memorable Character: Emoni is a loveable and admirable character, and we care about her success in high school and her future. It was interesting to consider the life of a high school senior from the perspective of a teen mom. How does motherhood affect her dreams and ambitions? What types of support systems are most helpful? Is it possible for a black Puerto Rican teen mom to have ambitious dreams and aspirations?
Family Challenges: In With the Fire on High, Emoni has never met her mom, and she and her toddler daughter live with her grandmother who has raised her. Although Emoni has limited communication with her father, he’s distant and unavailable to offer daily or practical support. The grandmother is on a limited income and Emoni needs to work part-time after school to help support them. Emoni receives a great deal of emotional and practical support from her grandmother. How do these family challenges affect Emoni’s life as a student and her ability to dream of a future or do her limitations define her life?
A New Relationship: Can a single teen mom who is caring for a toddler, helping to support her grandmother, holding down a part-time job, heading the fundraising effort for her class trip to Spain, cooking on the side, and struggling to maintain her grades in school find love? Will this new relationship deter her or empower her?
A Dream: In this story, we are reminded of how essential it is to listen to the dreams of young adults and be the “wind beneath their wings” (especially for “at-risk” young adults who might not have the advantages that others take for granted). One of the ways Emoni finds encouragement is through email correspondence with an aunt who also loves cooking and sharing recipes. Even though Emoni has many challenges and obstacles, she persists in following her dream to become a chef.
Themes: I appreciated the thoughtful themes in this story that include pursuing a dream, taking risks, dealing with racism and prejudice, a grandmother as a primary support person, teen mom responsibilities and challenges, complicated families, friendship, beginning a new relationship, persistence, determination, overcoming obstacles, and other teen-related themes.
Recommended: I recommend With the Fire on High for readers who appreciate diverse reads, for fans of the art of cooking, and for those who enjoy inspirational female characters who overcome challenges in their pursuit of high goals. If you like an occasional YA read, this is a good one! If this were a movie, I rate it adult PG.
My Rating: 4 Stars
(My rating is given with a YA audience in mind.)
Meet the Author, Elizabeth Acevedo
ELIZABETH ACEVEDO is a New York Times bestselling author of The Poet X and With the Fire on High. Her critically-acclaimed debut novel, The Poet X, won the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. She is also the recipient of the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction, the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and the Boston Globe-Hornbook Award. Additionally, she was honored with the 2019 Pure Belpré Author Award for celebrating, affirming, and portraying Latinx culture and experience.
She holds a BA in Performing Arts from The George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. Acevedo has been a fellow of Cave Canem, Cantomundo, and a participant in the Callaloo Writer’s Workshops. She is a National Poetry Slam Champion and resides in Washington, DC with her love.
Have you read With the Fire on High or is it on your TBR?
Do you appreciate an occasional YA read?
Do you love diverse reads?
Are you a fan of cooking topics in books?
Happy Reading Book Buddies!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
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I’m working on a “best reads of summer” post and looking forward to reviewing my favorite book of the year (so far) on Friday!
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