With the Fire on High
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From the New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award longlist title The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright.
Ever since she got pregnant 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, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.
The Poet X was phenomenal and one of my favorite books of 2018 so when I heard Acevedo had a new book coming, I didn’t need to hear anything else. If I had known this book was bursting with food porn, I would have been a million times more excited than I already was.
I think the best way to describe With the Fire on High is that even if it isn’t particularly fluffy, it is a soft book. Emoni Santiago is a teen mom and is juggling school, work and raising a child with the help of her abuela. Emoni faces so many challenges and obstacles but there is also so much hope and support.
Over the course of the book, we get to see Emoni figure out how to be Emoni again and go after the things she wants even if it isn’t easy. With the Fire on High is worth reading for the food porn alone but it is worth reading for the many important things it tackles about identity, motherhood and growing up.
Somewhere Only We Know
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10 00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.
11 00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.
12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.
If you love a good, fluffy contemporary that will make your heart flutter you really never have to look further than Maurene Goo. Somewhere Only We Know follows Lucky and Jack. Lucky is at the top of her game as a K-Pop star but has felt her love for what she does slowly slipping away. Jack is an aspiring photographer but feels like his Korean fam would never let him pursue this interest more seriously.
Lucky and Jack meet when Lucky runs away from her hotel, desperate for something to eat after having to follow a very strict diet. Over the course of the night and the following day, the two explore Hong Kong’s best sites and eat a FUCK TON of amazing food. They also help each other face hard truths and become better versions of themselves.
I don’t know if Somewhere Only We Know hits the same mark for me that Goo’s previous books did, especially because we don’t get to interact with secondary characters as much as we have in Goo’s previous books, but Jack and Lucky are both complex, well rounded, characters who managed to win my heart. The food porn didn’t hurt either.
There’s Something About Sweetie
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Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After being dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.
The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?
Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.
Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.
Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?
I haven’t read When Dimple Met Rishi yet but loved From Twinkle, With Love so I was excited to dive into There is Something About Sweetie. While I did thoroughly enjoy the book, I did find some plot devices to be over the top in ways that didn’t work for me. I also felt like the romance needed more time to develop before I could buy the “I love you’s.”
The heart of this book is its characters. Sweetie and Ashish have a lot to prove to themselves and also have a lot to learn about themselves. Ashish is tired of always having to exist in the shadow of his older brother and Sweetie is tired of her mom always making her feel ashamed about her body.
When the two decide to date, against Sweetie’s mom’s wishes, it’s less for romantic love and more to figure themselves out. The more time they spend with each other though, the more they figure out how wonderful the other person is and slowly love blossoms.
Ashish and Sweetie are truly well written characters and made this book completely worth the read even if I did cringe occasionally.
Don’t Date Rosa Santos
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Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.
But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.
As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?
When I originally planned for this series of mini reviews, I had not read Don’t Date Rosa Santos. It doesn’t quite belong with this bunch because honestly, it is a sad book. It hit particularly close to home for me which had me actually bawling my eyeballs out but YEAH. ANYWAY. So Don’t Date Rosa Santos is sad and melancholic but it is also so sweet and so earnest.
The sea has taken a lot from Rosa’s family and left them fractured. Rosa doesn’t really know how to make her family whole again but she does know that she wants to go to Havana and see the homeland her grandmother left behind. To feel like she belongs somewhere and feel connected to her roots again.
Over the course of this book, Rosa navigates college apps, inherited trauma, what it means to be diasporic, and first love in the face of tragedy. Moreno has written an incredibly heartfelt book that transports you to a small, lively town in Florida. Honestly, I don’t know who could possibly hate this book. It’s beautiful and I wish I could stay submerged in its pages forever.