Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review: The Poet X

Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 368
Genre: Contemporary
Availability: On shelves now
Review copy: Digital ARC via Edelweiss

Summary: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Review: The writing in this book is phenomenal. Acevedo paints rich pictures with her words. They are not only detailed and vivid, but they also include the emotions of the scenes. With very few words, readers are brought into the world and mind of Xiomara.

In her home, school and community, Xiomara uses her knuckles to talk. People see her body, but don't see who she is and they don't listen to her voice to discover anything more. She finds this true even in the church which is a large part of her life because her mother is devoted to God. In church, Xiomara says that her worth is under her skirt. On top of that, she thinks that listening to the commandments shuts down her voice.

Where Xiomara finds her voice is in her writing. She begins to feel heard through her poetry. Spoken word poetry opens up her world. 

As she's working out who she is and who she wants to be, Xiomara gets into serious conflict with her mother. Theirs is a complicated relationship. Her mother wants what is best for Xiomara, but their ideas of what is best are very different. They exchange some harsh words and actions, but figuring out their relationship is a crucial part of Xiomara's growth.

There are many important relationships in the book. Xiomara's twin is also dealing with his own issues. They are there for each other sometimes, but they also disappoint each other. Aman is a bright spot in Xiomara's life and sees her beauty, but isn't blinded by it. He wants to know her. They also have struggles though.

Recommendation: Get this soon especially if you love poetry. Xiomara's story is well suited to the format. Hers is a wonderful story of identity, family, faith and love.

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