TITLE: With the Fire on High
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Acevedo
PAGE EXTENT: 400
PUBLISHER: Hot Key Books
GENRE: YA Contemporary
MY RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.
“I just take another bite of my sandwich, close my eyes, and savor, because I can’t think of a single way to make my life more how I imagine it, but I can imagine a hundred ways to make this sandwich better. And sometimes focusing on what you can control is the only way to lessen the pang in your chest when you think about the things you can’t.”
With the Fire on High is the heartwarming tale of Emoni Santiago, a seventeen-year-old mother staying with her Abuela and her daughter Emma in Philadelphia after her father left. Emoni aspires to become a chef and is having a hard time juggling senior year of high school, motherhood and college submissions.
THIS BOOK WAS JUST WOW. Considering the fact that Acevedo’s books are well-accepted and loved, this came as no surprise to me. I KNEW right from the first page that I’m going to fall in love with this book and I had a smile plastered on my face throughout.
“I’m not ashamed of my baby. I’m not ashamed I had a baby. I’m not ashamed I’m a mother. I lift my chin higher.”
Emoni is one of the strongest protagonists in YA. She could have chosen to abort her baby when she found out she was pregnant at fourteen. But she did NOT. She put up with all the sneers and rude comments hurled at her and decided to continue with the pregnancy whatsoever. If that isn’t the purest form of love, then what is? I ADORED the scenes featuring Emoni and her daughter Emma (whom she fondly calls Babygirl) and boy, Emma is one lucky girl! She has the BEST mom!
This book had a ton of representation. Emoni, who is a teenage mom, all happens to be half-Latina (her father’s side hails from Puerto Rico). Emoni’s best friend Angelica is a lesbian who is out and happily in a relationship with her girlfriend Laura. Angelica is a whirlwind and Emoni’s pillar of support! She is one of my favorite side characters because damn, that girl is a storm!
“…but damn if I don’t know how to cook good food that makes people hungry for more, that makes people remember food is meant to feed more than an empty belly. It’s also meant to nourish your heart.’’
This review would be incomplete if I don’t mention the food. Being a hardcore foodie, my mouth kept watering time and time again! Even though Emoni has a lot going on in her life, her love for cooking shines above all! As they say, there is ALWAYS a bright side to things. Emoni adds her own twist to otherwise common dishes to make them tastier! After all, it’s the small things in life that sometimes give us the greatest happiness! If that’s not enough, this book also features three easy recipes and I want to try them all out!
Of course, Emoni has a lot of hardships in life, be it her hectic schedule or her financial difficulty. Acevedo fleshes out a strong and fierce teenage mom and you begin to root for her from the start. If you are thinking this book is a depressing one, squish that thought. This story might be a rollercoaster of emotions but definitely a pleasing one!
I’d be disappointed if the ending had been too fabricated. The ending was super realistic and made a lot of sense. Acevedo doesn’t sugarcoat any of the difficulties faced by Emoni on her culinary journey but makes it so endearing you would want to jump into the book and give Emoni a nice, warm hug. Emoni, you go gurrrlll!
I am NOT a fan of contemporaries. If I pick up a contemporary book, it means I have truckloads of expectations. I don’t think I have to mention here that this was undoubtedly a five-star read! Wait. Five, sugary, crispy star-shaped chocolate-chip cookies!
“The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely choose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance.”
Acevedo is definitely one of the strongest voices in YA. Her writing is very smooth and flowy and you won’t be able to stop reading (oh, and so full of quote-worthy lines!).The chapters in this book are super-small and every chapter features a cute illustration of a food item! She is on my list of auto-buy authors now! I will be reading The Poet X very soon and Clap When You Land when it comes out! I need more of Acevedo’s magic in my life!
If you made it till here, I appreciate your patience. (😂😂😂) What are you waiting for? Pick up this book, ogle at that beautiful cover, read it in one sitting, embrace that warm feeling that creeps up inside you, hug this book tight (because it deserves all the hugs in the world!) and thank me later haha!