Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Hardcover, 357 Pages
Published March 2018

Summary: 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.

I've had this book sitting on my TBR (and also my physical bookshelf!) for a few months, and I hadn't had a chance to read it due to an overwhelming amount of schoolwork and also a lot of books that I had to read for blog tours and such. However, after I found out that this book one the National Book Award for Children's Literature this year, I knew that I had to put all of my other reading plans aside to bring this book to the forefront. And let me tell you, once I made that decision, I was so glad that I did.

As the summary explains, Xiomara is a high school teen who seems to be dealing with struggles on all sides -- her super religious mother won't let her have a boyfriend, and she also scorns her whenever Xiomara asks questions about her faith. In school and on the street, she's also constantly subjected to people making disgusting comments about her body or assuming things about her just because of the way she looks. Feeling attacked from everywhere and afraid to speak up, Xiomara knows that the one place she can truly find her voice and feel safe is in her poetry. Not that she'd ever read it to anyone. She'd be killed if she did. But through a complicated series of events (which I won't spoil for you!), Xiomara realizes that she actually wants to share her poetry. She wants to make her voice heard, consequences be damned. Even if that means changing and risking everything.

I absolutely loved this book. I tore through it so quickly! Even though it was nearly 360 pages, I read the entire thing in 2 sittings, reading 175 pages on one day and finishing the entire book the next night. The book being written in poetic form made it really easy to breeze through for sure, but I think that's only part of the reason that I soaked this book up so fast. I think more so than that, Elizabeth Acevedo created an incredible, intense story that I just couldn't tear my eyes away from. I always wanted to turn the page and find out what was going to happen next. 

When I first picked up the book, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel because I've never been a fan of novels written through poetry in the past. Not that it's bad or anything -- it's just never really been my cup of tea. So I was a little bit hesitant before I started this book. Luckily, my worries were entirely unfounded because this story sucked me in the same way a prose novel does (if not even more!). The book being written in that format was just really interesting to me and it kept my eyes scanning the page for something fresh and new. I definitely appreciated it and I'm certainly less hesitant about books written in poetic form now!

Something else that I really loved about this book was the way that it encouraged me to create. As soon as I closed this book, I felt like my fingers were twitching, eager to pick up a pen and my trusty notebook and scribble poems in it all night long until the sun came up. I've always been a writer, but I tend to go through slumps sometimes where I'm feeling stuck, particularly during finals (aka, now). So I was both surprised and delighted to find out that this book sparked my love of poetry again and that it pushed me to want to create. I'll definitely admit that I spent a few of my classes with my notebook hidden by my open laptop, jotting down poems and story ideas thanks to the burst of inspiration that this book gave me!

Overall, I absolutely loved The Poet X and I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to stop singing its praises. This book touched me emotionally, made me feel that fierce sense of female empowerment that I always love feeling, and also struck me creatively. Like I said earlier, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about reading a book written as a series of poems, but I'm so glad that I made the leap, because this book touched my heart and my soul and I can't wait to recommend it to everyone I know. Now I know for sure that With the Fire on High will be on the top of my TBR for 2019!

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