With the Fire on High (Book Review)

The minute I started this book, I knew I’d made a mistake.

If you’ve been following this blog over the course of 2019, you know how much I love gushing about The Poet X. It was my first read of the new year and I’m thankful for that. It only made since to continue on with another one of Elizabeth Acevedo’s masterpieces.

This copy of With the Fire on High was purchased at my local bookstore, The Book Cellar, and that’s also where I took these two pictures. It’s a really cute book shop and I’m thinking about going back and taking more pictures. Comment below if you’d be interested in a post on that.

The minute I started this book, I knew I’d made a mistake.

With the Fire on High is the kind of story that requires a devotion of your day. Setting it down leads to a total dissatisfaction until you can pick it up again. I spent several nights with heavy eyelids, telling myself it would only be one more chapter.

With that being said, let’s get into the actual review.

Goodreads Synopsis

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.

The Good

With the Fire on High is the kind of story that rarely gets told, especially in YA. Seeing a teen mom presented in such a real way is wonderful. Seeing a teen mom being represented at all, especially as the main character, is refreshing.

Emoni’s cultures were represented so well. She is not only afro-latina, she is also american, and I think Elizabeth Acevedo touches on that very well. The Philly culture is represented nicely. I haven’t read many other novels set in Philadelphia, but this story made me want to visit.

Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing does to me what Emoni’s cooking does for ‘Buela. It felt like I could really connect to all the characters, no one was one-dimensional in this story. Every character is a person with a past and their own motives, even the “mean girl” has a reason for her actions.

The writing style is beautiful. The figurative language and imagery draws you in fully. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see the scenes unfolding in my mind.

The plot moves naturally. Nothing feels rushed and it definitely doesn’t feel slow. Every chapter contributes to the story.

The not-so-good

There were a few technical errors, mainly grammar/typos. Nothing that will keep you from understanding the story.

All in All

I was worried about whether With the Fire on High would live up to the hype. At one point, I was scared to pick it up, not wanting to be disappointed.

With the Fire on High is a wonderful story of resilience, culture, family, and opportunity. This is the kind of story that should be read in classrooms nationwide.

Have you read With the Fire on High?

Are there any books that are high on your TBR?

What are you currently reading?

What should I pick up next?

Let me know in the comments, let’s chat!


Author: Rachelle Saint Louis

Rachelle Saint Louis is a Haitian-American writer, born and raised in South Florida. She received a 2018 Silver Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition for her poem “Red Blood Cell.” She is currently a Psychology and English double major at Florida Atlantic University. Her poetry has been published in Rigorous Magazine. Rachelle has been writing poetry since the 7th grade and you can often find her performing Spoken Word at local open mics.

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