As you’re all very well aware, I am incapable of resisting a good cover. And if you look at the cover for With the Fire on High you can see one thing – IT IS STUNNING. And naturally, when I am doing my favorite thing ever (meaning perusing Edelweiss) and then see a cover like this, what am I gonna do, say no? I requested this one based on the cover, the fact that everyone loves Elizabeth Acevedo and the fact that this book has so much good in it. And it was such an enjoyable read, so once again, a great cover does not disappoint.
With the Fire on High follows Emoni, a 17-year-old single mom, who is in her final year of high school and is struggling to get everything done right – high school, work and raising her daughter. Emoni is a black Latina (her father is Puerto Rican) and she is living with her grandmother, and is really passionate about cooking. This story follows her during her senior year.
This book is wonderful on so many levels. I absolutely loved the representation we got here – there are black characters, Latinx character, there’s a lesbian side character and I just loved how wonderfully diverse this is. There were a lot of discussions about Emoni’s culture and her identity, how she is black, but also Latina, and American, and how those different identities can sometimes clash, not for her necessarily, but for other people’s perception of her, and I loved how she embraced all parts of her culture.
Emoni is also a character that is really easy to root for. She has had to grow up really fast and to learn to give a lot of stuff up, but she takes it all in stride. On top of that, she really has a hard time deciding to do stuff just for herself, for that same reason, and it was wonderful to read about her learning to accept that it’s okay for her to want things just for herself. She also feels like a really genuine and realistic character, from the stuff she does to the way she feels to the way she talks. I could really connect with her and root for her and be in it with her. I really appreciated her a lot and she is a wonderful driving force for the novel.
I also really loved the descriptions of food in here – I think they brought this whole new dimension to the novel and really brought it to life. And I love that the food was used to bring up memories, both personal and cultural for Emoni, her family and her friends and it was just a lovely and unique addition to the book.
I also really enjoyed Emoni’s relationships with her friends and family – she and her best friend have a really special relationship and Emoni’s grandmother is also wonderful, and I loved how complex and loving their relationship was. Emoni also has a really complex relationship with her father, that isn’t that great, and I think it was given the necessary time and attention it deserved. There was just a lot to love in this novel, and I appreciated all sorts of things about it. And it really left me feeling nice and hopeful.
When I started reading this, I was sure I was going to give it a really high rating. And while I still really enjoyed this one, somewhere around the mid-point, my love started diminishing a bit. While this book is full of amazing things, my main issue with it became how off paced it was. This book is in my opinion too long, and on top of that it lacks a culmination. This book doesn’t build up to anything. It just goes on and on, without any sort of build-up, which is frustrating and also seems a bit pointless. Whenever I felt like the book’s big moment was coming, it never happened. So I think this could have easily been a 100 page shorter and with that a lot better paced.
The other thing that bothered me is the romance subplot. I never really connected with the romance, and I don’t think it was necessary. I don’t mind it, but I don’t think it was handled well. If we were shown the characters connecting or even having a conversation, I could have been a lot more invested in it. This way, I just felt like we were told they were clicking, without actually seeing it. That’s another issue here – there’s a lot of exposition at times, especially concerning character dynamics, which I feel sort of downplayed the relationships in the novel.
However, these issues did not in any way ruin the book for me, I just wasn’t as obsessed with it as I could have been.
I would still wholeheartedly recommend this novel. I think it’s amazing and full of really great discussions and with a wonderful main character that’s super easy to root for. I did have some issues with it, but I don’t think they lessen the book’s value and I would still recommend you pick this one up once it hits shelves on May 7th!
I’d love to hear from you! Have you read Elizabeth Acevedo’s previous book, The Poet X? Are you interested in picking this one up? Do you know of any books that focus on food? I’d love to know!
Also, don’t forget – I am hosting a GIVEAWAY and you can win $18 to spend on books!
*I received a free eARC from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated are my own. Obviously.
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