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With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Young adult

With the Fire on High

by Elizabeth Acevedo

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Quick take

Fire up the oven, because this inspiring story of family and ambition will make your stomach grumble.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Feminist

    Feminist

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_WellKnownAuthor

    Famous author

Synopsis

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.

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Check out a preview of With the Fire on High.
With the Fire on High

Part One: The Sour

Day One

Babygirl doesn’t even cry when I suck my teeth and undo her braid for the fourth time. If anything, I’m the one on the verge of tears, since at this rate we’re both going to be late.

“Babygirl, I’m sorry. I know it hurts. Mommy just doesn’t want you looking a hot mess.”

She seems unfazed by my apology, probably because thing (1) I’m not braiding tight enough to actually hurt her (which is why her hair is all loosey-lopsided!), and thing (2) Babygirl is watching Moana. And she loves Moana. So long as I let her watch Moana she’ll let me play with her hair till kingdom come. Thank goodness Angelica lets me use her Netflix account. I lean a little closer to the edge of the sofa so I can snatch up the baby hairs at the front of her head. This is the hardest part, and I have to start the braid tight and small to get it right.

“Emoni, vete. It’s time for you to head out. I’ll fix her hair.”

I don’t even look over at ’Buela standing by the staircase that leads to the two bedrooms upstairs. “I got it, ’Buela. I’m almost done.”

“You’re going to be late for school.”

“I know, but . . .” I trail off and it turns out I don’t have to say it, because in her way ’Buela always understands.

She walks over and picks up the comb from where I set it on the couch. “You wish you could be the one taking her.”

I nod and bite my bottom lip. I worked so hard to get Babygirl into a good daycare, and despite a long wait list I kept calling and stopping by Mamá Clara’s, the woman who runs the childcare, until she snuck us into an opening. Now that Babygirl is actually going I’m freaking out. In her entire two years on earth, Babygirl has never not been with family.

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Why I love it

Elizabeth Acevedo serves up another fabulous book in this story of a talented teen chef trying to follow her dreams. This was one of the most inspiring YA novels I’ve read in a long time. It will tickle your taste buds and warm your heart!

Ever since she was little, Emori has been an amazing cook. Herhome is a loving place filled with laughter and amazing food. She, her two-year-old daughter, and her abuela don’t have much money, but they have each other.

Then Emori returns to high school for her senior year, and learns about the chance of a lifetime: a class in culinary arts that culminates in a trip to Spain. Emori knows that the trip is not something her family can afford, and that she should be spending her time looking for a steady job instead of chasing her dreams.

… But wouldn’t it be great if she could do both?

I positively loved this novel! Emori is an amazing character. She’s smart, and strong, and she’s an amazing mother. And her story of family, following your dreams, and struggling with life’s tough choices is so real that it almost felt like a memoir. OH, AND THE FOOD—the descriptions are incredible! (Pro tip: Don’t read this on an empty stomach.)

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Member ratings (1,273)

  • Jessica W.

    Windham, NH

    After LOVING the PoetX, I couldn’t wait to read this book and think I liked it better. I devoured it in 1 day and then listened on audio (Acevedo reads her own books and they’re AWESOME) Loved Emoni<3

  • Mary I.

    Dallas, TX

    I loved Emoni’s story and the pace of this amazing book! Definitely one for an inner foodie! A quick read, the story includes emails and short chapters to propel the reader into Emoni and Buela’s life

  • Renn G.

    Seattle, WA

    I don’t think I have to say much more than this—Elizabeth Acevedo is an absolute star. I will continue to buy and devour anything she puts out. This book was just like Emoni’s cooking—delectable!

  • Priscilla M.

    San Antonio, TX

    This is such a beautiful, poetic, and heartwarming book. It’s not just about romantic love, familial love, and parental love, but it is also about loving your self enough to step into a new beginning.

  • Gemma B.

    Ridgefield, WA

    I loved this book! This book touches on many important topics and the main character had such a great voice.I loved the recipes and Emoni’s descriptions of how she feels when shes cooking.A Must Read!

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