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With the Fire on High

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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.

8 pages, Audiobook

First published May 7, 2019

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About the author

Elizabeth Acevedo

20 books15.5k followers
ELIZABETH ACEVEDO is a New York Times bestselling author of The Poet X, With the Fire on High, and Clap When You Land. 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.

Her books include, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes 2016), The Poet X (HarperCollins, 2018), & With The Fire On High (HarperCollins, 2019), and Clap When You Land (HarperCollins, 2020).

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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 12,987 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews150k followers
August 5, 2022
Acevedo’s second novel centers around 17-year-old Emoni Santiago whose cooking is an instrument of wonder. An aspiring chef, Emoni dreams of attending culinary school where she can hone her skills, but now whenever she seeks those fantasies, her 3-year-old daughter’s face will not let them take root. Raised by her grandmother Gloria after her mother died and her father became a figurehead moving in and out of her life with little permanence, Emoni is determined to be the best mother she could be. But when Emoni’s school announces a new culinary arts class that will culminate in a weeklong apprenticeship in Spain, a tentative swell of hope takes hold. How long can Emoni grasp after the tail end of her dream when so many people rely on her?

With the Fire on High is an immensely warm-hearted treat that boldly gives voice to young women whose stories are often dismissed as cautionary tales, and it gripped me from the first couple chapters. Acevedo’s voice is warm, resonant, with a pull to it. You can tell the author has a strong background in poetry, because the way she utilizes language throughout the novel is absolutely beautiful. The novel is also separated into sections, each of which is introduced with recipes so rich they linger on the tongue; it was such a lovely addition.

The heart of the book, though, is motherhood, its pains and rewards. The author is so honest about it all: there is so much tenderness wounded into this book, ineffable and aching, but there’s despair, too. Through it all, however, threading them together like jewels on a golden string is a torrent of love. The author surrounds Emoni with an unbending support system, which includes Angelica, Emoni’s queer best friend, Tyrone, Emma’s dad, who is steadily present in his daughter’s life, and Emoni’s grandmother with her quiet, unremittent love. Even Emoni’s father, a genuinely kind and generous person, but who is dogged by the loss of his wife ( “the best of him”, Emoni says, “is reserved for strangers,” but over the course of the novel, he learns to extend that benevolence to his own family). Emoni also meets Malachi, a kind and handsome new student, who indefatigably pursues her affections but never crosses her boundaries, and Emoni’s heart thaws for him regardless of how much she tries to put her veneer of remoteness back firmly in place. The romance that blooms between them is so heart-warming, and realistic besides.

Overall, With the Fire on High is a unique, hearty story that you can easily breeze through over a weekend. Trust me, I binge read most of this book and it was the best therapy session that I’ve ever had!
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
601 reviews86.9k followers
February 28, 2019
*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review by Harper Collins Frenzy. Thank you!*

This was such a great read. So rich and vibrant, I felt like I could smell and taste each dish that Emoni made. She was an easy to character to love and root for and I enjoyed watching her journey throughout her senior year as a teen mom struggling to put herself first for once. Overall, I think this book was just as beautiful as the cover is (and that's pretty damn beautiful.)
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,471 reviews19.1k followers
May 13, 2019
My favorite book of the month so far. This was SO GOOD and Elizabeth Acevedo has definitely become an auto-buy author for me. Also side-note: I feel SO ATTACKED that all the food mentioned in this book is not currently in my mouth???????????? It all sounds so damn good I just 🤤
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,070 reviews38.2k followers
June 17, 2021
Five distinguished, magical, tasty, heartwarming, poignant and definitely exquisite firing stars!

Since I’ve read Laura Esquivel’s “ Like water for chocolate “, I started to enjoy reading books about talented cooks who pour their souls, their secluded emotions, their hopes and happiness into their food to create an art and serving one of the most pleasuring things of life by sharing their creativity! Just like Emoni Santiago did with her gifted hands, enduring soul.

Her food is her reflection of her love for her baby girl, her Abuela who practically raised her, her heritage, her mom whom she never met, her father even he abandoned her when she was little baby , her pen-friend aunt Sarah who loves sharing recipes and her best friend Angelica!
This book makes you smile, feeds your soul, touches and warms your heart!

It was an amazing also emotional journey to read the story of struggling Emoni ! She’s taking responsibility of her baby girl( at some parts she also takes care of her Abuela and they change their roles) to give her best opportunities even if she is still too young, life pushes her growing faster to be a proper adult who also works after school to support her family !

When she starts taking culinary class, she finally understands her life purpose! She wants to be a chief!!!
She works hard, does whatever it takes, sweats in pain for fundraising of their trip to Spain to learn more about international kitchens, working as an intern of Spanish chiefs, broadening her horizon and her skills.

With her trip to Spain, she learns what a dream means and what she should do to fight against all the obstacles to make her dream come true! Finally she understands she is not only a baby mama who accepts what life gives her, if she wants something from deep in her heart, she needs to work hard and learn to get what she wants!!!

The author achieves a perfect balance between realistic and poetic, lyrical fiction that makes you love all the characters and accept them with their all flaws, faults!
You feel like they’re your real family members, lifetime friends, your school teachers, your boss or your boyfriend!

This is real genuine, sincere , heart melting, gripping story!

There is only one side effect of it. You gotta eat something or try the recipes of Emoni as soon as you finish it!

But it’s worth to taste and definitely worth to read!
Profile Image for emma.
1,786 reviews43k followers
April 20, 2020
I have an elaborate, multistep, book-reviewing-based plan for world domination.

If you are familiar with my reviews, you know this.

If you are new here, hello. Also, I plan to rule the world.

Now that we’ve gotten the introductions out of the way: It has come to my attention that another step must be added to my complex and foolproof plan.

Clearly there is some sort of young adult contemporary convention that myriad writers attend and are given the requirements for their young adult contemporary. You know, the old “this book cannot contain the character doing homework, unless she has a development arc in which at some point she no longer does it” and “bonus points for a summer setting and/or a road trip and/or an overly close best friendship that falls apart only to come back together.”

You know the drill.

Obviously this conference exists, if only for one reason:

EVERY SINGLE YA CONTEMPORARY HAS A ROMANCE SUBPLOT, NO MATTER HOW UNNECESSARY.

And in this case, I would rate it “very” unnecessary.

I enjoyed reading about our main character, Emoni. I loved her passion for cooking, which is not something you see in YA a lot. I loved her relationship with her daughter and her grandmother, which - ditto and ditto. I loved her dedication, her ambition, her willingness to learn. I LOVED that this was set in Philly (go Birds).

I just didn’t love the romance.

To me it felt like an afterthought that took away from the masterfulness of the other plotlines, and left most characters I would have loved to hear about as flat extras. (Examples: Emoni’s ex, Tyrone, does a sudden characterization-al 180 and we have no reason to believe it, because he only appears like twice in the whole thing. Emoni’s child is apparently fully able to speak but has exactly one line of dialogue. Etc., etc.)

Ultimately some parts of this just felt rushed, and I didn’t end up clicking with a lot of it, even if I really liked the writing and the culture and the setting (again go Eagles) and I should read more Acevedo books in the future!

And that’s that!!!

Bottom line: When I rule the world I’ll like this book more.

-------------

everyone else seems to be spending their quarantine learning to cook, and here i am, living off of frozen pizza products.

desperately hoping this book motivates me to change my ways
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
September 8, 2020
Here’s the thing: these teachers forget that I have to make hard decisions every day.

With the Fire on High is all over the place on purpose — we get brief chapters that are simply glimpses into Emoni’s character, and then get to continue on with the journey simply knowing more about her. This has the impact, of course, that it’s not a very plot-driven book. But for a story this character-driven, it is a brilliant choice.
Sometimes, focusing on what you can control is the only way to lessen the pang in your chest when you think about the things you can't.

Emoni Santiago is a senior in high school, considering the rest of her future with limited options: after all, she is the single mother to a child she had three years previous with her ex-boyfriend. But with the help of her grandmother, her best friend, a new boy at school, and a new cooking class, she might have further places to go.

Emoni, as a heroine, is instantly compelling: strong, brave, but also at times vulnerable. She is unsure of her readiness to participate in either her dreams or in emotional openness, but also full of ambition. Some of the arc of this book comes in her learning to lean into her vulnerabilities, and risk things for her future happiness.

Emoni’s passion for cooking is so incredibly well-written and I genuinely think it should be used as an example of how to write passion. We are so in deep with her love for cooking that we immediately root for her to live her dream; we see her talent and see her potential and see how much she wants it, but we also see the obstacles in her way, and it just makes us want it more for her. I genuinely rooted for Emoni to become a chef on a level I barely feel for like, will-they-won’t-they romantic couples. (Emoni x happiness otp.)

I really liked Malachi, Emoni’s endearing bad-boy-exterior-good-boy-interior love interest. I love that Emoni doesn’t take his shit and keeps her role in the narrative; this romance is not her character arc, but one part of her development into someone more willing to participate in emotional vulnerability. It is so about her. That is not as common as it should be for female characters, even leads. Emoni’s grandmother, father, and best friend each felt like very fully-realized characters as well, and I loved seeing their interactions.

Maybe it’s more than just a tale of two cities; it’s a tale of two neighborhoods. On the one hand, people are scared to come over here because they say this part of town is dangerous, “undeveloped”, and a part of me thinks, good, keep out, then. But everyone knows that the good things like farmers’ markets, and updated grocery stores, and consistent trash pickup only happen when outsiders move in.

What I loved most about this book is the deep and enduring respect it gives Emoni’s dreams. It’s a book that explores cultural identity, and Afro-Latina identity, responsibility, and motherhood, and the social alienation that comes with teen parenthood. And within all that, it still allows itself to dream.

Every day it seems ‘Buela is stepping back, not just giving me full rein in Babygirl’s life, but also in my own. And I know I should love the freedom, but I don’t think I’m ready for all the safety nets to be cut loose. Doesn’t she know I still need her? That I still wish someone would look at the pieces of my life and tell me how to make sure they all fit back together?

The thing is, I wrote this whole review and I don't think I'm saying this right. I don't think I can properly articulate what makes this book so good. Except for this: It is a book that is enduringly real but still hopeful, and for that, it will stay with me for a long, long time.

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Profile Image for Melanie.
1,156 reviews97.7k followers
July 31, 2019
💛 Please check out Johely's amazing, ownvoices review!

“And so at the age of four, I learned someone could cry from a happy memory.”

With the Fire on High is an ownvoices story, following an Afro-Latinx main character named Emoni. Emoni is a young mom, who got pregnant her freshman year of high school, but this book takes place during her senior year, and her school just opened up registration for a culinary class. Emoni has loved cooking and crafting recipes her entire life, but she is apprehensive to sign up for the new class because at the end of the year there is a trip to Spain that she doesn’t think that she can afford.

Emoni lives with her abuela, and even though her daughter’s father is in her daughter’s life, he does not help out with expenses and money is very tight, along with Emoni’s free time. She is always working part time at a burger joint, and for sure doesn’t have time to even think about dating, until a new boy comes to the school, and joins the brand-new culinary class.

Elizabeth Acevedo's writing is just on another level. Her passages and one-liners leave me breathless and speechless. You can tell that she puts her entire heart and soul into every line she delivers, and it just makes this entire book shines so very brightly.

And the themes, from being a young parent and motherhood and what it means to be both of those things when people judge you for them constantly. To how sometimes family aren’t able to be what you wish they were, whether that means closer in distance and/or support. To being mixed race, and how Emoni’s Puerto Rican half will never erase her Black half, regardless of what ignorant people choose to say.

“The whole of me is whole.”

This is a story about connecting with your culture(s), and loving all of the parts of yourself, through food and through family, and it’s honestly so expertly done and so beautifully executed. Reading this entire story made me crave so many of the recipes that Emoni was making, but it made me crave my family’s food and company so very fiercely. Upon finishing, I actually went to the store, came home, and made Pancit and felt so very happy and so very whole.

Overall, this is just such a beautiful book with such a beautiful message. From feeling the closeness to Emoni, both naturally and her trying her hardest, to seeing the closeness of a community come together, it just made for such a powerful read and really left me feeling every emotion. Elizabeth Acevedo is a gift to the world and I can’t wait to read everything she will ever write.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: Abandonment, loss of a loved one in the past, medical anxiety/scares, talk of abortion, underage drinking, and use of the word g*psy that is 100% completely challenged.
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews884 followers
February 6, 2020
I didn't like this. Didn't like the writing, didn't like the characters and didn't like the nothingness that was this plot.
Emoni was super quick to judge everyone even though she knows exactly how it is to be judged for nothing.
Also, every problem she ever had was resolved way too easily and quickly, there never was any real conflict. This was 400 pages long and I really feel like I haven't read about anything at all.
Oh and I had to read the sentence "I let go of the breath I didn't know I'd been holding." three times. I hope that says enough.

Side note: Beautiful cover though.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,093 reviews17.4k followers
June 18, 2020
“The whole of me is Black. The whole of me is whole.”

Elizabeth Acevedo really knows how to write an escapist story.

I loved that this book was about a teen mother and how the story took a different approach to discussing the stereotypes around teen mums. I loved that this book was about family, blood and found. That it was about food and the way it can bring people together. About celebrating your heritage, your culture and life.

I loved Emoni. I was rooting for her through and through. She was headstrong, selfless, mature, and had an instinct and knack for food. The portrayal of a teen mother felt very realistic and I was there with her through her triumphs and her doubts.

The writing was simple and that’s all it needed to be. It did everything it could and more to transport me into this world and make me care about the characters and have me tasting the food descriptions.

I could’ve read on and on.

And now I need food so good I actually cry. Yes, I’m talking real-life tears, people.

——————————

Can’t believe this book has been on my TBR since it came out. Especially because The Poet X is one of my all-time favourites.

Atrocious behaviour.

Buddy-reading with my lovely Karima! 💛
Profile Image for BernLuvsBooks .
685 reviews4,625 followers
May 26, 2019
"The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely choose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance."

Elizabeth Acevedo has done it again! This sophomore novel is vastly different from Poet X, yet it is equally filled with boriqua pride, strong familial love and characters that ooze diversity. And that cover - breathtakingly gorgeous!

Emoni is a (part Puerto Rican, part Black) teenage mom who was raised by her 'Buela (grandmother) after the death of her mother in childbirth. How I adored her abuela and their strong relationship! Emoni's love and devotion for her daughter was everything. She wants so much for Emma and is willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to make something of herself.

Emoni has magic hands when it comes to cooking. Her food literally evokes physical emotion in all who eat it as she essentially pours a bit of herself into every dish she makes. This dash of magical realism woven into the story was perfection. I thoroughly enjoyed the recipes and the emails to her aunt about food sprinkled throughout. Food plays as important a role in the story as poetry did in Poet X.

Emoni struggling to find her way and working towards realizing her dreams was front and center here. It never took a back seat to the love story woven in which I absolutely appreciated. There were many strong secondary characters that impacted Emoni's life and added richness to the story. Her relationship with her best friend reminded me so much of my own that I couldn't help but smile each time they were together.

A lot happens in this book and I happily followed along with Emoni's life with every turn of the page. The short chapters made it feel hard to put the book aside - I kept thinking "just one more chapter" and found myself done before I was ready to let go.

Thank you to Elizabeth Acevedo, Harper Teen and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read and review this emotional and empowering story.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,712 reviews31.6k followers
February 21, 2022
5 stars

 photo 5218C059-0F0D-48B1-8644-5947298F06E2_zpskswwts2w.png
The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely choose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance.

I read Acevedo's debut novel, The Poet X last year and I was impressed by her words and moved by the story. When her sophomore novel, With the Fire on High came out, I picked it up straight away. Honestly, I loved this one so much more than her first book. The story was fantastic and it's by far the best YA book I've read this year.

Emoni is a senior in high school and a single mom to her baby girl, Emma. She got pregnant her freshman year of high school and has had to carry the title of teen mom through her entire high school career. Things aren't easy for Emoni. She lives with her Abuela, works part time, goes to school, and has a baby to take care of. She feels most herself and most happy when she's in the kitchen. Emoni is an amazing cook. Her food is magic and it's her passion. When a culinary program comes to her school, she is excited to take the class. There is a trip to Spain at the end of the year for the culinary class, and even though it seems impossible, she wants to go more than anything.

Through all this, Emoni starts to fall for a guy in her cooking class. He pursues her but she's not sure what to do. She's got a lot on her plate and romance has always been on the back burner for her. Even though she got pregnant young, she's inexperienced and unsure of where this can go. I loved watching Emoni figure out life and her feelings. She's an amazing mother, passionate chef, great friend and I couldn't have adored her more. I also loved her love interest, and I loved that it wasn't the focus of the book.

This book is important to read for so many reasons. It showcases teen mothers and their responsibility/the way the world sees them and how different it is for teen fathers. Not to say that every situation is like that, but I think most are. It means a lot to me to read about a teen mother in such a positive light as my mother was 15 when she got pregnant with me and even though I'm sure there were a lot of obstacles and struggles for her, she is the best mom ever and she always took care of me and put me first, much like Emoni. It made my heart happy to see this.

I have to note that if you can listen to either of Acevedo's books in audio format, you should. She narrates them herself and does an amazing job. This story is Emoni's journey through finding herself and reaching for her dreams. It's an important book, so very well written, and even though it was emotional for me, it was a lot of fun to listen to. I can't recommend it enough!!
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
903 reviews13.7k followers
June 20, 2020
this book made me hungry and i loved the romantic relationship in it. i was disappointed with elizabeth's writing style because it didn't hit me as hard as it did in her debut book, but i'm so excited to read her third book that just came in the mail.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,379 reviews11.7k followers
June 26, 2019
With the Fire on High reminded me of Robin Benway's Far from the Tree in a way that it takes a similarly super positive, almost syrupy sweet tone. Both stories are inspirational and lean on the fantasy of the tribes of supportive people that will lift you up and help you out of the direst circumstances. Fell-good? Yes. Realistic? Eh.

Emoni is a high-school senior, a teen mom of a 2-year old daughter, and an aspiring chef. She works hard, she is nice and calm, she is also kind of bland. With the Fire on High is a story of Emoni's last year of high school and of her figuring out what to do with her life after.

The problem with this novel is that there isn't really a conflict. Emoni strives for better life and achieves EVERYTHING that she wants through hard work and with the help of her grandma, ex, best friend, teachers, etc. She deserves for things to work out for her, but it also makes for a rather dull story.

I also think that Acevedo's transition to prose from the verse of The Poet X was not a fully successful one. For every delightful turn of phrase, there is always a clunker of a "I let go of the breath I didn't know I'd been holding" variety (twice within a couple of pages!). It felt like Acevedo's rather tight poetry was expanded through the use of the lamest YA stock prose.

Many good subjects brought up here - poverty, teenage pregnancy, post-pregnancy body, etc., but it all is sugar-coated a lot too, especially where motherhood and juggling child/school/work is concerned (who is paying for the kid's daycare? who watched her before daycare when Emoni went to school and work? does grandma do all the actual child caring? the same grandma who is on disability?), which made it clear Acevedo knows about raising kids mostly second-hand.

Emoni’s is a well-meaning story, but the one often divorced from reality. You've seen Teen Mom. You know I'm right.
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,013 reviews46.3k followers
May 7, 2019
a fantastic prose novel from a fantastic author

I'll start this review off by saying that I haven't had the chance to read Acevedo's debut, but everyone I've talked to raves about it. So requesting and getting approved for this ARC was really special and I'm really grateful I had the opportunity to read this.

The book is about Emoni Santiago, a teen mom in her senior year at a charter school in Philly. She's got a passion for cooking and is trying to figure out what her next move is. Take a culinary class in high school? Go to college?

But more importantly, this book was about culture and family and roots. I loved the way this story was told almost in little vignettes about Emoni's life. All of the chapters drove the story forward but getting little insights into pieces of her life in the past or little insights about being a young mother was incredibly compelling. And reading a book about a latinx character was really cool. I've never read a book with an afro-latinx main character and i really felt for Emoni and where she came from.

This book was full of flavor, recipes, and love. I also really appreciated the ending and the overall "quietness" of this book. It felt realistic and complicated and messy. And at this point I'm just throwing out adjectives, but just know that this book was a really fantastic sophomore novel and I implore you all to pick it up.
Profile Image for zuza_zaksiazkowane.
316 reviews28.9k followers
July 26, 2020
3.7 W sumie bardzo przyjemna młodzieżówka poruszająca wazne i ciekawe tematy. Ale! Zdecydowanie nieidealna. Ile tam było rzeczy które mnie frustrowały! Szczególnie wątek romantyczny (ale to nikogo nie dziwi). Więcej w czwartkowym *30 lipca* vlogu!
Profile Image for may ➹.
463 reviews1,851 followers
July 26, 2019
me: writes a blog post complaining about how I’m going through a reading slump

me, later that day: binge reads 300 pages of this book
Profile Image for Ashley Nuckles.
190 reviews7,300 followers
February 23, 2020
I will read anything with Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing. Enough said lol.
Profile Image for Kezia Duah.
357 reviews225 followers
February 23, 2022
4.5⭐️
One thing I love about reading is how it can make me think about something I don’t usually think about. From this book, I got to think more about teen pregnancy and cooking. The way Acevedo describes Emoni’s love for cooking in this book is just beautiful.

Emoni Santiago has a child, and she is a senior in high school. From early on, we see how the world can be unfair to girls in her situation and not give the same energy to the baby’s father. It really baffles me when the world does this. One thing she has going for her is a very supportive system, which includes her Abuela, friends, neighbors, people at church….again, very good system. It really highlighted for me that when it comes down to it, we really need people. She also has cooking as a form of escapism, and it’s something that she really is passionate about. Her identity is a big part of this book as well. She loves herself, but it can be a constant struggle to deal with the ignorance of others.

We get more insight into what she was like before she had a child and the actions she regrets. She has to make many more decisions throughout the book, and I was so proud of her for her growth. Her growth wasn’t instant, but it felt like she grew a little every few chapters. We love to see gradual realistic growth! She is so smart and really inspiring. Her relationship with her child’s father really affected how she views men and love in general. Will she ever be able to open up again? Will she ever be able to achieve her dreams, even though it seems like there is so much she can’t control?

I just also really want to acknowledge Abuela. This woman went through a lot. She has had to care so much for her family members and literally takes on their burdens as her own. She represents a lot of women who go through this or something as close to this. Very in love and thankful for her character.
Profile Image for Kevin (Irish Reader).
273 reviews3,927 followers
February 18, 2020
This was such an enjoyable and easy read, exactly what I was in the mood for. I really loved everything that this book dealt with including race and teen mothers. I really loved the main character too and was rooting for her. Also, I would highly recommend the audiobook, it’s narrated by the author and was so amazing!
Profile Image for Elle.
584 reviews1,257 followers
December 18, 2021
I liked this. Liked, not loved. I’m familiar with Elizabeth Acevedo mostly through her novels in verse, but I was excited to see her try her hand at contemporary YA fiction in the form of a traditional novel!

Emoni Santiago is a compelling protagonist. She’s been through a lot in her seventeen years, including losing her mother, her father leaving, getting pregnant in her freshman year of high school—but she still has so much passion for what she loves. Emoni wants to be professional chef, but has mostly given up on that dream because of her current obligations. But then Emoni has the opportunity to take her first culinary class her senior year, and it feels as though doors that she thought had been closed to her are finally cracking open. A potential career path, a blossoming new relationship and more lay before Emoni, if only she can find the fortitude to do something just for herself again.

I see what Acevedo was going for with having this story set after Emoni’s pregnancy. That there’s more to her life than just that one pivotal moment of it. And for teenage mothers who may be reading to have someone in a book to root for, to get to watch her succeed. That’s important representation, and I applaud the author for that choice.

However, I don’t think the main conflict of the book really ever came close to some of the struggles Emoni experienced prior to it. She has worked hard her entire life, mostly because she had no choice, and works consistently hard throughout With the Fire on High, but that’s part of the problem. What changed to make things suddenly start going well for her? I didn’t see an evolution or growth, just Acevedo’s wish for her main character to have a happy ending. And don’t get me wrong, she deserves that ending, but it didn’t feel like we got to sit in on the most engaging parts of Emoni’s journey.

Acevedo is a poet, so it’s no surprise so much of the language is, well, ~poetic~. I love seeing writing like that in YA, because for some reason it never comes off quite as stuffy as it has a tendency to in adult literary fiction sometimes. There are some turns of phrase that I feel like she fell back on a few too many times. One in particular that Tatiana mentioned in her review, “released the breath that she didn’t know she was holding”, was probably the worst offender. Still, that’s not uncommon in YA, and it wasn’t too distracting for me overall. But while I did enjoy With the Fire on High, I’ll probably stick to Acevedo’s verse novels going forward.


**For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!
Profile Image for Tina.
2,306 reviews1 follower
December 21, 2021
This is a Young Adult Contemporary book. This book's main character got pregnant her freshman year of high school. This book takes place during her last year of high school, and she is raising her daughter while going to school and trying to make her dreams of be coming a chef. I really enjoyed the book because it feels like a true story, and the characters feels so real. I do not always love YA books, but this one was really good. I did not love Elizabeth Acevedo first book, but this one was so good. I am glad I give this author a second chance.

I got this book from Book of the Month. https://www.mybotm.com/zr12wnytgc8?sh...
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,170 reviews25.4k followers
July 3, 2019
“The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely choose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance.”

This story is so beautiful. I read The Poet X earlier this year and I really enjoyed it, but I think I enjoyed this one even more. This book follows a young girl named Emoni who had a baby her freshman year of high school and dreams of becoming a chef, she enjoys cooking more than anything. She enrolls in a cocking class at her high school and gets the opportunity to go to Spain for a week, if she can afford it.

I listened to the audiobook, which is freaking great by the way because the author narrates it herself, and I absolutely love her voice, she brings these characters to life. I love how this book shows how people look down on teen mothers and it's so unfair to assume they are irresponsible, and we put so much blame on the mothers and never the fathers, who are equally as responsible. I felt so bad for Emoni every time she had to deal with her baby Daddy's rude as hell mother. I loved so many of the scenes with her in the kitchen butting heads with the teacher of her cooking class, it was highly entertaining.

All in all, this was a great book!
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,440 reviews29.4k followers
August 27, 2019
"The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely choose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance."

Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X was easily one of the best books I read last year. This novel-in-verse moved and dazzled me, and it is a book I still think about quite often. Her new book, With the Fire on High , is written in traditional prose, and I am equally blown away by what Acevedo created.

Ever since she got pregnant her freshman year of high school, Emoni Santiago has always put the needs of others before her—her daughter, her abuela, her best friends. She has always worked harder than anyone else, to prove to everyone that she can make her own way and take care of her daughter, and that one wrong choice shouldn't doom your life forever.

The one place where Emoni feels most alive is the kitchen. When she cooks, she is a dynamo, taking recipes and twisting them in her own novel ways, inspiring those who eat her food with inexplicable emotions and memories. If she has any dreams of her own, one is to someday become a chef, although she knows the amount of work may be too much for a young woman raising a child.

"'Buela is convinced I have magical hands when it comes to cooking. And I don't know if I really have something special, or if her telling me I got something special has brainwashed me into believing it, but I do know I'm happier in the kitchen than anywhere else in the world. It's the one place I let go and only need to focus on the basics: taste, smell, texture, fusion, beauty. And something special does happen when I'm cooking."

When Emoni gets the chance to take a culinary arts elective during her senior year, she is more excited than she's really ever been where school is concerned. The chef-instructor is impressed by her creativity and her innate sense when cooking, but he wants her to learn how to follow instructions, to understand the fundamentals of cooking, and she isn't sure that learning is better than actually having the chance to just do. But she can't imagine not having the opportunity to cook every day.

In addition to struggling to care for her daughter, make enough money to help her abuela, and study so she might get into a good college, Emoni also must decide how to handle the attentions of Malachi, a handsome, intelligent transfer student. She also has to deal with the challenges of family, particularly the demands of her baby's father and her own father's tendencies to stay away. But through all of that, Emoni focuses on the magic she can create while cooking, magic which links her own heritage and her connection to her mother, who died when she was born.

With the Fire on High is utterly exceptional, moving, compelling, and so entertaining. This is a book about proving yourself, about the obligations of family, the weight a young woman has to carry, and the things which often go unsaid. It's also a book about courage, support, loss, and staying true to your beliefs, even when everyone around you is trying to convince you to do something different.

Acevedo's prose is truly lyrical and she conveys so much emotion and humor and love in this story. Here's a sentence or two which sums up so much: "Can you miss someone you never met? Of course, the answer is yes."

I really love books about food and cooking, and once again, this one made me hungry. There so many things Emoni and her classmates made that I wanted to taste! But still, I consoled myself with the beauty and heart of this amazing book. Acevedo has a talent that needs to be read, and I can't wait to see what comes next for her!

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2018 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2018.html.

You can follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
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