With the Fire on High

A sweet and savory novel about navigating the pressure of responsibilities in order to follow your dreams. Acevedo has created a diverse story, rich in culinary and cultural descriptions that will warm your heart.

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.

— Elizabeth Acevedo

Synopsis:

Emoni Santiago has to make tough decisions every day. She’s a high school senior, a single mother, and even has a job to help with the bills. Raised by her abuela, she has a deep love for her multicultural roots. She feels most at home in the kitchen, sprinkling her magic into everything she cooks. But how can she follow her dream of being a chef when there are so many other responsibilities and expectations looming over her?

…you can’t control how people look at you, but you can control how far back you pull your shoulders and how high you lift your chin.

— Elizabeth Acevedo

Review:

With the Fire on High is a good story – not amazingly complex or nuanced, but good. There are some aspects that help it shine, but many areas where it feels a little stale and poorly executed. The hype was really high for this one, and I think for Contemporary YA lovers, this will totally be a favorite. I just wish it had drawn me in more deeply, like I had hoped.

I do love an “own voices” story, and enjoy reading about other cultures and locations and traditions. Some of the characters are well-developed, like ‘Buela and Emoni, and really help you connect to the story. There are other characters that, if we knew a bit more about them, would have rounded out the story more. However, the tension and dialogue in the relationships feels relatable.

The recipes at the beginning of each of the three sections sound mouth watering, and I would have enjoyed a few more thrown in. I especially enjoy how emotions and music are woven into the recipes and food throughout the book. It really gave it a personal touch and insight into Emoni’s personality.

At times, I think the flow and plot could have used another dash of spice. It just feels underwhelming until they leave for Europe in the third part. It just seems like not much happens, which would normally leave room for more character development…but that just didn’t seem to happen either.

Overall, I enjoyed the diversity of this book, and how it was so rich in culinary and cultural descriptions. It’s a good light read and I’d definitely recommend it if you are looking for something relevant yet hopeful!

With the Fire on High
by Elizabeth Acevedo
ebook, 400 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by HarperTeen

Summary

A sweet and savory novel about navigating the pressure of responsibilities in order to follow your dreams. Acevedo has created a diverse story, rich in culinary and cultural descriptions that will warm your heart. There are some aspects that help it shine, but I just wish it had drawn me in more deeply.

— Cassie
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