Review: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevado

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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 had such high expectations for this book, and let me tell you it surpassed every last one. I can’t believe I didn’t pick this up sooner, but I’m so glad I’m finally did. It was so beautiful and full of joy, heartache, pain and forgiveness. It spans every emotion under the sun and I felt them all throughout reading this book.

There is something about books that discuss food that I can’t help falling in love with. I’m vegan, but even if that focus isn’t vegan, I still love it. I think it’s something to do with the magic of food, the connection that we feel when reading about such a tangible thing. It always really draws me into the story, and I felt that in this book like no other.

Emoni is a Black teen mum living with her elderly grandmother, and she has a natural talent for cooking. It’s all she wants to do, and when the opportunity comes up at her high school to take a culinary arts class that includes a trip to Spain, she knows she has to take it.

The world is a turntable that never stops spinning;

This book carries so much weight but was also so easy to read. The super short chapters were utterly addicting and I really didn’t want to put this book down. I was just so absorbed by Emoni’s story, and although I had a good idea what would happen at the end, it overjoyed me to be along for the ride. With the Fire on High has so many important discussions including about race, sexuality, family, friendship, relationships, teen pregnancy and how to deal with being your own person and having to look after a child at 17. I sometimes find teen pregnancy puts me off books (probably due to a highly disturbing one I read as a young teen that still sticks firmly in my mind, sadly), but this was just handled so well. I absolutely loved Emoni’s relationship with her family and I felt the difficult balance was written so genuinely and honestly. I really felt for her.

There was just so much I loved about this book, and I honestly don’t have anything to criticise, I could gush about it all day. It was the perfect contemporary with a twist that had so many heart warming elements and scenes. I really rooted for and felt connected to all of the characters, and there was a few scenes towards the end of the book that made me tear up because of the love I felt for them all.

as humans we merely choose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance.

Overall, this was an absolutely adorable and heart warming read with some heavy topics that I felt were handled really well. It was super enjoyable and had so many elements that worked well together, including Emoni’s love for food. I’m so glad I picked this one up!

CW: death of a parent (mentioned, in the past), teen pregnancy, discussions of sex

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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3 thoughts on “Review: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevado

  1. Pingback: April Wrap-Up + May TBR – The Books are Everywhere

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