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Shortly after joining the bookish community, I kept seeing this book everywhere. For the longest time I had no idea what it was about, but I always remembered it by the gorgeous cover.
It wasn’t until I decided to join a reading challenge that I finally added With the Fire on High to my TBR. So, I ordered it and stared at it on my bookshelf for a couple weeks before finally picking it up.
I feel like in most cases I need a chapter or two (or three) to get into the groove of a new book, get used to the writing style, and get to know the characters. But this is one that I started to like right away.
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 388 (hardcover)
Published: May 7th, 2019
The novel begins with Emoni trying to get her two-year-old daughter ready for her first day of daycare, while she is also hurrying to leave for her first day of senior year (she got pregnant after a short lived relationship during her freshman year). The book then continues to follow her throughout her final year of high school.
Emoni lives with her paternal grandmother in Philedelphia as her father lives in Puerto Rico and rarely visits, and her mom passed away during childbirth. Her father’s side is Spanish-speaking Carribbean while her mother’s side is African American from North Carolina.
During her senior year of high school, Emoni is trying to navigate co-parenting with her baby’s father, working to help out her grandma with the bills, and wondering what on earth her future is going to look like.
Oh, and there’s the thing about cooking. Emoni is an amazing cook. So amazing that people cry when they eat her food.
My reading experience
I am flabbergasted at how much I found myself looking up to this child. And yes I know 17/18 isn’t exactly a child, but as a woman of 30 looking back at how much growing up people do between the ages of 17 and 30, I see her as a child. And I want to be just like her when I grow up.
Ok so getting knocked up your freshman year of high school is not ideal. I wasn’t quite that young, but I also had an unplanned pregnancy. And even at 23, fresh out of college, I was scared. I can’t imagine going through that in high school, but Emoni’s character handled the situation with grace and maturity. She’s an admirable character and as a reader I was left with the feeling that she is going to be just fine, no matter what life throws her way.
What I liked
- The characters. I felt they were well-developed and realistic, even the minor ones.
- Malachi. He’s the new boy in town who’s got his eye on Emoni. Normally I’d say young guys are bad news but this kid has my stamp of approval.
- The pace. The book has short chapters and was pretty fast paced. This made it nice for a busy mom like me to be able to make some progress when I only had 10 minutes here and there.
- The cover. I will proudly admit that I judge books by their covers. Sometimes that’s misleading but this gorgeous cover had a pretty nice read within its pages.
What I didn’t like
- There’s a scene between Emoni and one of her teachers that I just didn’t care for and it didn’t seem to fit. The teacher was scolding her for something in one of their lessons and Emoni went off. And then skipped class for a week. It’s one of the few times (or only time) Emoni acted like a child and it just didn’t seem in character for her at all.
I’m not usually into Young Adult, but I quite liked this book. It was a well written gentle read. I enjoyed getting to know the characters. I think because Emoni and I both had surprise pregnancies and have to navigate the sometimes excruciating concept of co-parenting, I was able to really relate to her.
Would I watch this movie? Yeah. I don’t think it’d be a spectacular production, but it definitely has the potential to be one of those cozy familiar movies to watch over and over.
I give With the Fire on High 4 out of 5 stars.