With the Fire on High

Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High
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With the Fire on High

Elizabeth Acevedo

From New York Times bestselling author of POET X comes a story of a girl with talent, pride and a little bit of magic that keeps her fire burning bright.

Ever since she got pregnant during freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions, doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen. There, she lets her hands tell her what to cook, listening to her intuition and adding a little something magical every time, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she’s always dreamed of working in a kitchen after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. But then an opportunity presents itself to not only enrol in a culinary arts class in her high school, but also to travel abroad to Spain for an immersion program. Emoni knows that her decisions post high school have to be practical ones, but despite the rules she’s made for her life - and everyone else’s rules that she refuses to play by - once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free. 



Emoni has a deep love of cooking. She’s extraordinarily talented in the kitchen and has dreamed of being a chef since she was a child. When a culinary arts course is offered at her school, she is, naturally, excited and it should be a no-brainer that she would sign up. She’s just not sure she can make it happen. With the help of her Abuela (grandmother), Emoni is finishing high school while caring for her infant daughter; money is tight and a course that includes a trip to Spain might be a dream too big to manage.

Emoni is mature and hardworking, balancing school, childcare, work and navigating family dynamics. It’s rare to see a book about teen motherhood, rather than teen pregnancy, especially one that never feels like a cautionary tale. Emoni’s life isn’t easy but it’s certainly joyful. Emoni is a proud young woman and her story is hopeful.

Sections of the book are introduced with gorgeous recipes that reflect Emoni’s Puerto Rican and African American roots, and the novel is a celebration of a rich food heritage, of family and community. The recipe directions include such gems as ‘keep on the stove for the duration of three listens to a Cardi B song’. It’s a perfect choice for readers who have loved Angie Thomas’s books. Elizabeth Acevedo is the author of the widely celebrated National Book Award winner The Poet X and she has followed it up with a stunning young adult novel of the highest quality. For ages 13+.

Kim Gruschow is the children’s book buyer at Readings St Kilda.

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