With the Fire on High: Book Review

With the Fire on High is like finding a new favorite restaurant in a neighborhood you’ve never explored before.
Rating: 4.75 Stars

With the Fire on High
Elizabeth Acevedo
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Synopsis: 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 doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for their trip to Spain—and certainly can’t follow her dreams of working in a real kitchen someday.

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 choice is to let her talent break free.

It takes a special something to make me want to pick up a contemporary novel. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo drew me in with it’s culinary focus and just a dash of magic. I have never been so happy to try a book outside of my usual genres and I can tell that Acevedo is an author I will read anything by.

Before I even get into the review of the story I have to say that reading this one via audiobook is the way to go. Acevedo is the one who provides the narration and in doing so, she provides the emphasis where she intended and the flow of words where she wants. Her smooth, rich voice draws in the reader and deposits them straight into the scene. Simply put, her narration is sheer perfection.

The story focuses on Emoni, a teenage mother and aspiring chef, living in Philadelphia. Aceveda expertly builds Emoni into a character that feels so real I feel I may bump into her one day while exploring the city. Emoni feels wholly herself in everything she does and though I have not gone through half the things she has, I could not help but connect to and root for her. With the exception of Emoni’s abuela, many of the secondary characters lack a bit of depth. And while that would have bothered me in any other book, it doesn’t here, because this is Emoni’s story.

Before I started the book, I read some reviews and one thing that was mentioned was a lack of action in the story. To which I ask, were these people expecting dragons to attack in the middle of one of Emoni’s classes? A lot happens in this book, because it is showing Emoni’s life and how it unfolds in her last year of high school. This novel is a slice of life contemporary, not an action packed fantasy novel. To say it lacks action and then lower a rating for that is ridiculous and probably says more about the reviewer than the book.

There are two reasons this book isn’t a 5 star for me: some of the conflict wraps up a little too conveniently and at least twice, the phrase “I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding” is uttered. Look, I know this is a YA book, so it has to have that phrase once to qualify as such (/sarcasm), but twice just sticks out as lazy writing. The conflict issue…well, without getting into spoilers, I loved how the book ended, but a few of the wrap ups were just too easy. Not so much that I felt it was wholly unbelievable, but just enough to bother me a bit.

At the end of the day, With the Fire on High is a fantastic novel and one I know I will read again in the future

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