Review: Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High Should Be Your Next Hot Read

Elizabeth Acevedo serves up a tender and warm story in With the Fire on High.

Hello, book friends! This week I picked up a sizzling hot read: Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High. I adored Acevedo’s The Poet X and how it creatively formed a narrative through poetry. So I’ve been jonesing to pick up a copy of With the Fire on High, which I predictably loved! The story follows Emoni Santiago, an Afro-Puerto Rican teenage mother and talented cook who lives with her ‘Buela and daughter Emma. With a full schedule of classes and a job at The Burger Joint, Emoni only wants to get through senior year and care for her family — but along the way, her life catches up to her. She finds the possibility of a career as she takes a culinary course at school as well as a budding romance with a transfer student named Malachi.
There’s no straightforward plot, so to speak, but Acevedo takes so much care to make Emoni’s world matter. Whether it’s fundraising for a trip to Spain, going on a shaved ice date, or spending a low-key Thanksgiving with her ‘Buela, each moment with Emoni is so rich and delicious. We get a strong sense of who she is — a tough, but tender young woman who’s pulled in multiple directions by her complicated love for her family and her passion for cooking. As the book progresses, she puts her pride aside and allows herself to dream bigger. Her relationships with her grandmother, father, and child’s father stretch and grow with challenges along the way.
What I love most about With the Fire on High is how distinct each character feels — each with a rhythm and personality of their own that fits into the protagonist’s life. Emoni’s best friend Angelica is a blunt and prickly artist with a heart of gold. ‘Buela is stern yet loving, the mother figure who seemingly has it all together but subtly reveals vulnerabilities beneath the surface. Malachi emerges as kind and straightforward, carrying himself in both an earnest and laid-back manner.
Taking us head first into a world replete with love, the book embraces passion and family without coming off as corny or contrived. With the Fire on High is a character-driven delight — the said character being Emoni, who buoys the story with her big heart and clear sense of self.

You can buy a copy of With the Fire on High on Bookshop.org.

Grade: 8-12
Published: 2019

You might be interested in …

Meet Yasmin

Review: Saadia Faruqi’s Meet Yasmin Is a Breath of Fresh Air

Books

Meet Yasmin is a punchy and bold addition to kid lit that deserves a space on your bookshelf. Saadia Faruqi’s Meet Yasmin is a delightful concoction of childhood joy, a marriage of evocative prose with bold, beautiful colors. It’s really a collection of early reader chapter books: Yasmin […]

Read More
Zoe in Wonderland

Review: Zoe in Wonderland Beautifully Finds Roots in Reality

Books, Plants

Review: Zoe in Wonderland is a down-to-earth story that grounds itself in reality.  Since this is a plant and book blog, I gave myself a tremendous pat on the back when I discovered Brenda Woods’ Zoe in Wonderland, a middle grade chapter book about a plant […]

Read More

Review: The Woman Warrior Is a Surreal Tribute to Storytelling

Books

Laced with fantasy and folklore, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior is a surreal tribute to storytelling through the memoir form.  Hey, y’all! I’m back with a review of The Woman Warrior. Maybe five years ago, my adviser recommended me this book when I was working on a […]

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.