A Review of: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Updated: Mar 30
Genre: YA Contemporary
Length: 388 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Emoni is a senior in high school with a real talent and passion (or as her grandmother calls it magic) for cooking. Her life is complicated by the fact that at the age of fifteen she became a mother to a little girl with her ex, Tyrone. The novel follows Emoni through her senior year as she is faced with decisions about her future.
The main character of this novel, Emoni is creative, and loving mother, friend, and granddaughter, though she tends to be stubborn when she believes she is in the right. Though not initially a team player, she grows throughout the novel and learns to take constructive criticism.
Other notable characters include 'Buela (Emoni's grandmother) who raised her and is both kind and firm, Chef Ayden (Emoni's culinary arts teacher) who recognizes her talent and challenges her, and Malachi (Emoni's love interest) who is playful and at times extremely vulnerable.
The novel is told from Emoni's first person perspective. Emoni's thought patterns/dialect resembled that of her speech, and I appreciated that consistency. There are also a few recipes in the book (appropriate since Emoni is a cook) and emails between Emoni and her maternal aunt. The chapters are generally quite short (a few pages at most) and sometimes felt a bit choppy to me. Despite this I still felt the novel had good pacing and never felt rushed.
This novel had such heart to it with a big emphasis on family, choice, and passion. I've never read a YA book that tackled teen parenthood and I felt the novel did it very responsibly. The author never shamed Emoni for being a teen mom, but at the same time never glamorized it, either. I feel as though Emoni's struggles of what to do with her future will be relatable to any senior in high school or even anyone at a crossroads in their life. One thing's for sure, Acevedo is a very talented author!