By Elizabeth Acevedo
“I feel like I’m being pulled in a hundred different directions and my feet are stuck in cement.”
I haven’t read any YA books in a while, so when my wonderful colleagues at the office dropped the gorgeousness that is With the Fire on High on my laps……Pure Joy!!! I mean would you look at the cover of this book; it’s absolutely yummy!
With her daughter to care for and her Abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.
At the heart of With the Fire on High is a very relatable story. A tale of an extraordinary brown woman, who will not be trampled upon or boxed in a corner because of society’s perception of young black & brown mothers.
Emoni bloody Santiago, I can’t remember when last I rooted this hard for a character. I loved her from the get-go. She represented everything I wish I was at her age, Strong, Bold, Unapologetic and 100% that Bitch (Google Lizzo) She is dedicated to achieving her dreams and smashing her goals regardless of whatever label and limitations placed on her. It was so entertaining to watch her jump any and every hurdle placed in front of her.
Gosh! I wish I had read this book when I was younger. The life lessons present in this 400 page-turner are epic. We live in an imperfect world, with hordes of imperfect people with different paths. So therefore nothing is ever straightforward and as such, there is always more than what meets the eye. Hence it is important to be slow to judge and spread kindness.
And I know the past isn't a mirror image of the future, but it's a reflection of what can be; and when your first love breaks your heart, the shards of that can draw blood for a long long time.
Emoni, in my opinion, is a poster child for imperfection, she is a teenage mum living with her grandmother with a dead bit baby daddy and a very distant Father. She is going through all this and still has to tackle school and her culinary art class, Sweet Jesus! She also represents how it doesn’t matter what your past is but what you do with the pain and the lessons learned to secure a better and brighter future.
This is a book I would recommend everyone to read. It’s short & sweet and also incredibly inspiring. PS. Make sure you always have a Snack within reach because I guarantee that you would be hungry half the time.
Until next time.