I received this book for free from HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Published by HarperTeen on March 6th, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Verse, YA
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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.
I am a finnick-y asshole when it comes to rating books 5 stars which isn’t necessarily because I don’t love books but I want to reserve that 5 stars for a book that is something that I am going to remember for a long time after I close the last page shut. The Poet X is just one of those books you are gonna come out of feeling something. I don’t share the same identities as the main character and yet the way Xiomara navigates her diaspora completely moved me. The way her story was told made me feel seen and validated.
The Poet X is told in verse and yet it tells an overarching story that I am not sure prose could have done justice to. Acevedo is incredibly talented to say the least and her poetry is on a whole new level. I’ve dabbled in reading verse novels but The Poet X definitely stands out.
Has anyone ever felt that writing a review for a 5 star book is easy? IF SO, PLEASE GIVE ME YOUR SKILLS because I am not entirely sure how or what I should even gush about because there is SO MUCH to unpack.
At it’s heart, this book pays homage to slam poetry. It is essentially Xiomara’s diary but written in verse. Through these poems, we get intimate access to her world and her thoughts. There is so much going on in Xiomara’s life as she attempts to balance all her identities. She is a twin, daughter of Dominican immigrants, a miracle child, catholic and a poet. All those identities seem to be pulling at her and stretching her thin.
Her parents expectations of her don’t align with her desires and her personal goals. This also causes friction between Xiomara and her twin because he is not treated the same way by her parents that she is. They have different expectations of him and are constantly setting them up against each other.
Xiomara wants to be kissed for the first time, she wants to fall in love, and she wants to pursue her interests, she wants to be a normal teenager but her parents make that a lot harder than it should be. Old clashes with the new as Xiomara learns how to navigate her identities in a way that allows her to be her best self.
Honestly, I don’t even know how to do justice to this book with my words. The Poet X such a poignant look at diaspora and what it’s like to be born to immigrant parents. Of course, Xiomara’s experience is only one of many out there but that doesn’t make it less valid and less moving.
I want to hug this book, cuddle it and give it to everyone because I love it so much. Some people might find aspects of this book over the top but that doesn’t mean these experiences are any less real for someone out there and I hope people will give this enthralling novel the attention it DESERVES.
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