With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (400 pages)
There’s magic in Emoni Santiago’s cooking — she makes people feel with her food. Combining ingredients to make an amazing dish comes naturally to her. But while she dreams of being a chef, she knows pursuing it isn’t practical, at least not since she got pregnant her freshman year of high school.
When I picked up this book, I didn’t think it would take me far away. I usually read to escape — exploring fictional lands and floating on happily ever afters – but it was clear Emoni’s story took place in our real world, and for a moment, I hesitated. Then I started reading, and within pages, Emoni’s voice swept me away. I connected with her strong sense of self. Not to say she isn’t fallible or uncertain at times (what human isn’t?), but her drive is evident. Emoni keeps up with her schoolwork, doesn’t date (even when it’s clear the new kid, Malachi, is into her), and works at the local burger joint — all for her daughter, two-year-old Emma, aka Babygirl. The clarity of who she’s doing it for, even as she struggles with impending adulthood and life’s inevitable changes, drives her story.
In short bursts of chapters, Acevedo alternates Emoni’s present-day (her senior year of high school) with moments from her past, showing Emoni’s strength not only as a character, but as a mother, student, daughter, granddaughter, and friend. Her authentic voice carried me through the novel quickly, and her story left me with a feeling of fullness, like I’d just finished a meal made with magic.
The Bottom Line: 5/5 Brookie Stars
Emoni is creative with her dishes, relentlessly hardworking, and inspiring in her decisions, and if you’re looking to step outside your life, I recommend stepping into hers for 400 pages.
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Jamie Mitchell is a writer, library assistant, former bookseller, and all-around lover of the written word. She’s currently working on her fifth novel, and if you’re wondering where the other four are, they’re safe on her laptop and in need of rewriting. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, and enjoys traveling, bookstagramming and experimenting with gluten-free flours.
Favourite book: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Favourite brunch spot: 1823 Bakehouse