With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High book cover

Genres: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 400
Published: May 7, 2019 by HarperTeen
Format: eBook library loan

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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.

With the Fire on High is probably the best book I’ve read all year. I don’t even know where to begin with this review. Emoni is a delightful character, whose narration grabbed my heart, squeezed, and still hasn’t let go.

It’s hard to put into words how much I loved With the Fire on High. Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing and Emoni’s character just draws you right in, and you can’t help falling in love with both. At least, I couldn’t.

Emoni is in her senior year of high school, and she’s not quite sure what the future holds for her. What she does know is that she loves cooking (and she’s good at it!) and that whatever she chooses must not just be the best choice for herself, but for her daughter, Emma, too.

Emoni is a teen mom, but that isn’t the story and it’s not Emoni’s only story – it’s just a (big) fact of her life. The story is Emoni’s journey into adulthood as she figures out what she wants in life, learns to trust herself, and realizes that no one can make the hard decisions for her, and she shouldn’t want anyone to.

With the Fire on High is a refreshing perspective on teen pregnancy because Acevedo writes about it in a way that highlights the hardships of being a young parent without ever letting Emoni feel ashamed or be shamed by other characters, which is an all too common occurrence in real life and in other fiction that feature teen parents.

Emoni is a great mom, and she navigates complicated relationships and situations (such as her relationship with Emma’s father now that they are no longer in a romantic relationship but must work together to raise Emma) with so much grace and strength.

Emoni is a strong character from the beginning, but watching her develop and become more herself was magical. Acevedo’s writing is magic in the same way that Emoni’s cooking is magic: it fills you up with love, happiness, and grief all at once. Throughout the novel, I often felt an overwhelming urge to laugh and cry at the same time.

Overall? You don’t want to miss this one. If you’re looking for a character-driven, laugh-out-loud funny, and heartwarming YA novel, this is it.

Rating: ★★★★★

4 thoughts on “With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

  1. This sounds like a wonderful story. I’ll admit I had seen the cover around and thought it was beautiful but hadn’t checked out the synopsis yet to see what the book was about. Emoni sounds like a fantastic protagonist, one that I would fall in love with too.

    Liked by 1 person

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