BookBrowse Reviews With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

With the Fire on High

by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo X
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2019, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2021, 416 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A teenage mother finds new horizons opening up before her when she signs up for a cooking class at school.

From Like Water for Chocolate to Ratatouille, writers have recognized the power of food to evoke strong feelings and nostalgic memories. Elizabeth Acevedo explores this theme in With the Fire on High, her second young adult novel after the multi-award winning The Poet X.

Emoni is a senior in a Philadelphia high school, and she has more on her plate than many of her classmates. She had a baby at the end of her freshman year, and has been raising little Emma (a.k.a. "Babygirl") with the help of her grandmother. Emma's father is present in their lives—but maybe a little too forcefully present, especially when a new boy enters the picture. Emoni's mother died when she was very young, after which her father, more interested in social causes than his own family, returned to Puerto Rico. Bringing all these issues to a head is a new culinary elective, perfect for Emoni's natural talents in the kitchen, which opens up unexpected educational and professional horizons. 

Teen parenthood is not a new subject in YA novels, but With the Fire on High offers a refreshing perspective. Raising a baby has certainly changed Emoni's life, and Babygirl is the center of her world, but at heart she is an ordinary high school senior who opted out of a "special" teen parent track in favor of a regular school day and curriculum. She has an amazing support system to help her with Emma, from her beloved, young-at-heart grandmother; to her lesbian best friend Angelica; and even her ex Tyrone and his overbearing mother, who have partial custody of Emma. Emoni is building a life for herself that is self-affirming as well as loving and positive for her baby. Her growing relationship with patient, gentle Malachi, her new beau, inspires hope that Emoni will eventually open herself up to love as well, despite her less-than-stellar experience with selfish Tyrone. 

Food is at the center of the novel. Emoni has a natural gift for pairing flavors—especially Caribbean flavors—that do not ordinarily go together, tweaking classic recipes and making them her own.  And her creative recipes act on the diner's brain and heart as well as the tongue, evoking long-forgotten memories and feelings. Her teacher, Chef Ayden, guides her to a respect for the essential basics of food preparation and cooking, while recognizing his pupil's extraordinary gift.  Each of the book's three sections include one of Emoni's simpler recipes, all of which figure into the story itself. 

Elizabeth Acevedo's previous novel, The Poet X, was written in verse; With the Fire on High is prose, but the writing is still very lyrical—sometimes as lush as a warm and sunny Caribbean afternoon in the midst of a Philadelphia winter. The author is as much a master of language as Emoni is a master of food. Even the cover art, with its blood oranges, vanilla flowers and fresh herbs, is evocatively mouth-watering.

In Emoni, Acevedo has created a strong, creative, resourceful urban Latina whose story will resonate with both teen readers and adults.  

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in July 2019, and has been updated for the April 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Forest of Vanishing Stars
    The Forest of Vanishing Stars
    by Kristin Harmel
    Kristin Harmel's historical novel The Forest of Vanishing Stars was very well-received by our First ...
  • Book Jacket: African Europeans
    African Europeans
    by Olivette Otele
    The nexus of Africans and Europeans is not a recent historical development. Rather, the peoples of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Killing Hills
    The Killing Hills
    by Chris Offutt
    The personified hills of the novel's title foreshadow the mood of this brooding and ominous tale. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Vixen
    The Vixen
    by Francine Prose
    Recent Harvard graduate Simon Putnam has been rejected from grad school and has thus returned to his...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The War Nurse
by Tracey Enerson Wood
A sweeping novel by an international bestselling author based on a true World War I story.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Temple House Vanishing
    by Rachel Donohue

    A modern gothic page-turner set in a Victorian mansion in Ireland.

  • Book Jacket

    The Forest of Vanishing Stars
    by Kristin Harmel

    An evocative coming-of-age World War II story from the author of The Book of Lost Names.

Win This Book!
Win Gordo

Gordo by Jaime Cortez

"Dark and hilarious ... singular and soaring ... Hands down, top debut of 2021."—Literary Hub

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

N Say N

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.