Review: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
I did it again. When will I stop trying YA! I feel like I've written this review over and over again at this point...but I think we can all agree, this book was worth it for the cover alone!
High schooler Emoni has her abula's support to help care for her baby, Emma and help out so she has time to focus on one of her biggest passions: food. An opportunity arrises for her to go to Spain as part of a culinary arts programme and Emoni will stop at nothing to reach her goals of getting there to show her talent. With so many distractions in the way, she has to stay focussed to achieve what she really wants for herself, and for her daughter.
I thought the plot of With the Fire on High sounded charming; I'd never read a book that was going to be very much revolved around food and I thought it would be a lovely element to include! Unfortunately, I felt the inclusion of food didn't add much to the story. The addition was mild mannered and relatively nondescript. It had a similar tone in this sense to many young adult books that I have an issue with, which is they never go in deep enough with their detail. Emoni comes across as a sweet character, with a driven attitude and a soft spot for the new boy at school with gorgeous dimples. Her relationship with her daughter, Emma was loving and typical in what I expect from a teen mum and her new baby. My main issue with the characters was their lack of progression. The only obstacle that Emoni faces is that she had to raise enough money to attend the trip to Spain with her school. This was rushed through very quickly and I never got a real sense of how hard this was, how desperate she was to go, or details on her financial situation. Her financial status never felt particularly clear. Equally, the father of her baby never progresses throughout the book. He starts off by being difficult, and she suggests that they have an adult conversation about co-parenting, but it never happens which felt like an important loose end that wasn't tied up.
I had expected to enjoy With the Fire on High more, as it wouldn't be described as a hard-hitting novel; something I dislike in a YA as it doesn't talk about topics that I adore reading about in enough detail. Despite this book not falling into that category, this is a story where not much happens. There is somewhat of a plot progression, and I can often enjoy a novel where a loveable character just 'lives their life', but this did not work for me in the form of young adult. I would still absolutely recommend this book to those who enjoy reading YA, as the characters are charming and it is different in the way it discusses food and a passion for cooking, but the lack of obstacles made it feel too juvenile - everything was handed to her in a way that doesn't appeal to my love of books that are incredible sad and tumultuous!
Rating: 3.5 stars
Publication Date: 7 May 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
# of Pages: 400