Title: With The Fire On High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Pub. Date: May 7th 2019
Genre: YA Contemporary
Emoni Santiago goes up against all odds as a High School Senior & single mother to baby Emma aka “Baby Girl.” School has never been a place where Emoni felt successful, struggling with memorization but giving it her all. The kitchen however, is where Emoni’s hands and talent make all the magic happen. With the help of one very caring teacher, a course in Culinary Arts is introduced as an elective & Emoni is hand picked for enrollment. The chance to not only cook under a top Chef but also travel to Spain for a week as part of the course seems like a dream come true. Emoni tries not to get her hopes up seeing as the funds for the trip are not attainable with her part-time job. She has the help of her loving Abuela who does the best she can with her disability check but it’s a tight budget as it is with a baby to take care of as well.
Content Warning: Death of a loved one & abandonment
I truly LOVED seeing the support the teachers provided Emoni, knowing her background & never once making her feel less than. Instead of allowing her to block her own blessings, they moved to inspire her to find ways to raise the funds. They encouraged her to nurture her talent but also made sure to call her out when she dismissed the rules of the kitchen. Emoni is a headstrong Afro-Latina with a gift to make those who taste her food, think of their most fondest memories. Her recipes are very much old school in the sense that it’s not a teaspoon of this or a cup of that. There aren’t timers she’s setting to know when the food will be done, it’s when the aroma hits. Reading the passages where she’s struggling to understand why Chef wants her to know the importance of following rules in a kitchen be it your own or not made me think of a meme I had posted on my Facebook…
It’s actually not uncommon at all, I personally cannot go to any of my older relatives asking for a recipe because I’ll get “a pinch of this” or “when you smell this” HAHA! & it makes for some of the BEST food you’ll ever have! This book truly brought back a ton of memories of my childhood watching my own father cook. It was inspiring & packed a strong message of eliminating your own limitations and truly making your own dreams come true.
Emoni is a very inspirational young Afro-Latina who takes pride in two things: Baby Emma (her daughter) & her cooking Skills. She loves her baby girl to pieces & it’s tough seeing her having to get used to co-parenting as a teen mom. She often comes across a bit rough around the edges & a little defensive but that’s because she’s been dodging judgment since the age of 14 when she first became a mom. Emoni isn’t looking for anyone to handle her responsibilities, even with a supportive Abuela she tries not to lean on her too much. I loved seeing her evolve in her Culinary course & put her stubbornness aside for her highest good. Great character development.
Angelica aka “Jelly” is Emoni’s best friend since childhood, these two are inseparable. Jelly is also Lesbian and has a on page girlfriend who she’s head over heels in love with. Where Emoni loves to cook, Jelly loves to draw and these two together have dreams of a better future. Loved seeing how Jelly always had baby Emma in mind & was someone Emoni could trust.
Abuela- MY FAVE CHARACTER!!! Emoni’s grandmother is so lively, supportive, and loving. This is a old school Grandma, the type I had back in Puerto-rico growing up. Loves Emoni to pieces & makes sure Emoni is the one raising baby Emma. She understands the importance of Emoni being a independent mother & will always be there to provide support if need be.
Malachi- The new guy in school & also our love interest. What I loved about this guy is that he never pressures Emoni into anything. He respects her role as a mother & looks for ways to be supportive. Here’s a guy who comes in with all his swag, at once appearing to have that player look but instead takes Emoni by surprise.
I inhaled this book in one day via Audiobook & that’s simply because I cannot resist anything narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo, especially when it’s her own book. I listened while I worked from home & then transitioned into my kitchen to prep a meal where I laughed out loud & got all emotional in other moments. Emoni & Abuela in the kitchen really stirred up some of my own memories & made this book very special for me. I loved seeing Emoni actually go through her culinary arts course and evolve as a young chef & person in general. Emoni is someone who has had to deal with a lot at a very young age. With many obstacles stacked against her she perseveres & a village truly comes through in encouraging her to keep striving to attain all of her goals. In between chapters we get some of Emoni’s “Remixed” recipes & they all sound so tasty! This book will stir your senses & flip some stereotypes on their head while also delivering a positive message on overcoming obstacles. Elizabeth Acevedo has definitely become a auto-buy author for me 🙂
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