WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by Elizabeth Acevedo. New York: HarperTeen, 2019. 400p.
ISBN-13: 978-0062662835 hc. $17.99 Gr. 9-12 YA
Acevedo follows up the poetry of THE POET X with a beautifully written novel about a teen mother with a flair for food. Emoni Santiago, of Puerto Rican heritage, lives in Philadelphia with her grandmother (Buela), attends highschool, cares for her two-year-old daughter, and works part-time to help with expenses. She cooks for fun and intuitively chooses spices that reflect her emotions into the food. When a culinary arts curriculum becomes available at school, Emoni enrolls, but is soon disillusioned with the emphasis on following directions and the lack of creative freedom. After almost dropping out, her best friend and grandmother convince her to stay with the program. As a result, she takes a class trip to Spain and is immersed in amazing restaurant experiences, while being mentored by renowned chefs. At the same time, one of Emoni's culinary classmates wants to date her, forcing her to think about her future with a child, college and career, and her family and friends. Acevedo's writing skillfully conveys the emotions of a teenager trying to make good decisions the will affect the rest of her life.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI