Tuesday, June 25, 2019

THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo.  New York: HarperTeen, 2018.  361p.  ISBN 978-006266280-4 hc. $17.99.     Gr. 9-12    YA FIC

THE POET X is written in verse, and speaks to the power of poetry.  Like most of us, fifteen year-old Harlem sophomore, Xiomara or “X” embraces many identities.  She has a twin brother named Xavier, is a first generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic, and has developed into a tall, voluptuous teen who is constantly reminded of her sexuality by the rude comments of her classmates and her extremely religious mother’s overprotective admonitions about staying away from boys.   Xiomara shames herself for being attraced to classmate Aman, who likes the same music she does and keeps his hands to himself.   Her lifelong friendship with Caridad helps Xiomara navigate the boundaries between church, family, and individual expression.  When she can’t pretend to be quiet, pious, or chaste a second longer, she pours her emotions into her journal.  As her life begins to deconstruct around her, Xiomara accepts an invitation to the Spoken Word Poetry Club at school and finds the strength to share her words. 

The writing is full of metaphors and similes that create full images by using as few words as possible.  Acevedo divides the story with three Biblical verses that represent the importance of religion to Xiomara’s family. “In the Beginning Was the Word” reveals Xiomara’s background.  “And the Word Was Made Flesh” gives insight into her relationship with Aman, the acknowledgement of sexual temptation, and her resentment of rules for women imposed by the Catholic church.  “The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness” recounts Xiomara’s quest to find her voice by writing the poems that express her thoughts.  The audio version of this story, read by the author, is even better than print, as listeners connect to the phrasing, the pacing of conversation, and accurate pronunciation of character names.   Acevedo has been recognized for this awesome novel with the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Printz Award, the Pura Belpre Award, and the Carnegie Medal for Children’s and YA Books.  
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI         

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