Title: With the Fire on High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Publication Year: 2019
Genre: YA Contemporary
Number of Pages: 388
From Goodreads: 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 knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain—and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. 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 real choice is to let her talent break free.
I picked up this book because it is the current pick for the book club that I host for some of my friends. The theme for this book club was food, and this was the book that we voted on. I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for a few years now, and I’m so grateful that it was picked because I ended up loving it, and I think it pulled me out of my reading slump.
The first thing I want to talk about is the food in this book. This book is a lot of things, but it’s also a love story about the magic of food and cooking. The descriptions of Emoni cooking are fantastic, and they made me want to be in the kitchen with her, watching her cook and trying everything she makes. It was nice to read about the power of food and how a smell or a taste of something can bring back memories that you thought were long forgotten or turn around a rotten day. I appreciate food and cooking, and it was nice to read a book about how powerful it can be.
I loved the main character in this book. Emoni is stubborn, creative, loyal, and determined. She’s the kind of character that puts everyone before herself and rarely does anything for herself. I really admired her, and I wanted her to succeed. She was the kind of character I could easily root for, and I know I’ll be thinking about her for a long time.
I also liked the side characters in this book. I thought Angelica was a great friend, I thought Malachi was very sweet, I loved Emoni’s Abuela, and I thought Emma was very cute. However, I will say that I got mildly annoyed that Emoni almost always called Emma “babygirl,” though that was something I got used to eventually.
I also liked that this book talked about juggling different identities. Emoni is Puerto Rican; she’s Black; she’s born and raised in Philadelphia. Emoni talks about how she doesn’t fit nicely into certain modes people expect her to fit into. I enjoyed reading the parts where she talked about this, and it definitely made me enjoy the story more.
I also liked that this book talked about following your heart and following the rules. How there are moments in life when you can follow your heart and other moments when you have to follow the rules. Sometimes when you’re cooking, you can go wild and try new things, and other times, you have to follow the recipe because you aren’t the one running the show.
Overall, I loved this book. I loved the main character; I loved the food; I loved that it had short chapters, making it super easy to read. I definitely recommend reading this book; just don’t do it on an empty stomach because it will leave you wanting some food.
Rating: 4.5 Stars!