Review of With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With stories like this, I may just become a convert to contemporary YA! Well, at least an Elizabeth Acevedo fan. I’m hoping to get Clap When You Land next month too.

From the New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award-winning title The Poet Xcomes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright.

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela.

The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. 

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free. 

Plus don’t miss Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land!

Available on Amazon.

Audiobook: I listened to the sample of the audio and decided to buy it as I was quite enchanted by Elizabeth Acevedo’s delivery. Yes, she narrates her own book. She’s a slam poetry champion and she knows how to deliver her statements with impact. One thing I have to point out though, she narrates but does not try to dramatise. There is no effort to differentiate voices based on gender or age or even accent. Yet it works. I loved hearing her voice, her intonation and the feeling that she put into the delivery. This author is telling her story and putting the emphasis where the emphasis needs to be. I enjoyed her narration as much as I’ve enjoyed some of the most skilled narrators I’ve listened to before. In terms of production, the quality is high and I had no issues with syncing or any blips.

The story: Emoni Santiago is no stranger to hard times. Her mother died in childbirth and her father left her in the care of her grandmother, in Philadelphia, to return to Puerto Rico and a life free of his memories and child. This young woman is the epitome of determination, devotion and perseverance, even if she can’t see it for herself.

I read in an author interview that Elizabeth Acevedo wanted to look at the issue of teenage pregnancy from the ‘after’ perspective. This isn’t a story about a teenager coming to terms with being pregnant. It’s the story of a teenager living her life and trying to achieve her potential while juggling the responsibilities of parenthood with regular school requirements. She struggles to meet assignment deadlines alongside working part-time for the salary that puts Baby Girl in daycare and food on the table. She’s not perfect and every so often we see glimpses of the angsty teenager she doesn’t have the luxury of being.

Oh, the food… the food… the food. Do not read this story at any point when you’re hungry or you might just try to eat the book. It is truly a feast of the senses from the descriptions of the smell of herbs to the delectable adjectives used for the dishes. The types of dishes are quite astounding too, mixing both Emoni’s Latina and African-American heritages. It is said that certain smells and tastes can trigger our memories. The results of Emoni’s kitchen experiments touches each and every person she cooks for. Readers get small peeks into the lives of other characters through the memories Emoni’s food evokes from them.

Abuela Gloria is Emoni’s rock and source of eternal comfort. She somehow finds the way to balance her relationship with her granddaughter, who is adult yet still child, with her own life. Emoni never takes her for granted and is potently aware that her abuela has raised her child, her child’s child and is now helping to raise that child’s child too. Through it all, however, both of these women are strong and committed to achieving better.

Emoni’s father isn’t completely absent. He visits every year from Puerto Rico and maintains an ‘over the phone’ relationship with his daughter. He’s a proud Latino, studious and aware of his history and passionate about sharing it with those in his community. But he’s not a parent. Emoni calls him by his first name and although they have a ‘working’ relationship she resents his abandonment. This is an aspect that is developed and resolved as the story unfolds.

I guess then, for me, a main strength of this novel is the relationships built between Emoni and those around her, not just her family. At only seventeen, she has to find a way to cultivate a mature, healthy relationship with her daughter’s father and his uppity mother.

Her best friend is another source of strength and their devotion to each other is a beautiful example of the power found in true friendship.

Then there’s Malachi, the handsome, persistent, compassionate young man with his own difficult past, who finds a way to break through Emoni’s defences and helps her learn to trust again.

The story ends at a beginning. We’ve seen a snapshot of Emoni’s life. We meet her as a high school senior who’s goal is to graduate and maybe get into a college, despite all that is stacked against her. We leave her at another milestone. We don’t know what her life will become but we’ve seen her develop in confidence and self-awareness, and we know she has what it takes to achieve her dreams, whatever form they may take.

I give With The Fire on High 4.5/5 delicioso espresso shots.

5 thoughts on “Review of With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Add yours

    1. I’d seen the author’s name around before, but this year I started seeing more about her and reading really positive reviews of her books. Plus I saw a couple Spanish teachers recommend her books (from a culture perspective). I figured I had to try her out and I’m very very happy I did! Luckily for me this book was on special earlier. Lol. I’m hoping to catch her latest book on special at some point too!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

By Hook Or By Book

Book Reviews, News, and Other Stuff

Pretty Purple Polka Dots

"If you have the words, there's always a chance that you'll find the way"

The Bibliophilist Chronicles

Talk about books, reading, and thoughts

Sharon E. Cathcart

Award-Winning Author of Heart-Warming Romance and Historical Fiction with a Twist!

Hilltown Families

Community-Based Education Network

Angie Dokos

Living life one chapter at a time.

Kat Over Coffee

Let's talk about romance novels, food, travel and motherhood!

The Geeky Jock

A Book Blog


Book Reviews, Recommendations

Tracey at Home

An ordinary life lived in my own way.

Inside My Library Mind

Books, Reviews & More

The Punk Theory

This world's wild at heart and weird on top.

One More Word


Love for Words - Book Blog

Book reviews, bookworm hacks, bookish content!

A World of Books

Books ~ What else is there?

James J. Cudney

Best Selling Author of Family Drama & Mystery Fiction

Metaphors and Miscellanea

Books, reviews, writings, and musings from the one and only K-Specks

Chelle's Book Ramblings

Let's Talk Books



%d bloggers like this: