Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Print Length: 368 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (March 6, 2018)
Category: YA/Teen fiction
Age Range: upper middle-schoolers and above
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.
The Poet X came into my sights because I saw it on the list of 2018 National Book Award Finalists. When I found out it was written in verse, it made it to the top of my to-read list (since I am partial to such books). And I am SO SO GLAD I read it. This book wowed me and floored me with its beauty, its power, its raw honesty, and its gut-wrenching emotion. There is so much more I can say about how this book wowed but then the review would get longer than the book while lacking its power!
This book is about family, about relationships, about ways people learn to adapt to and overcome circumstances, about the role of religion and culture and tradition in our lives, about body-shaming and learning to love the body we are in, and about the power that words have on each and every one of us.
One other aspect of this book is the focus on religion. For those who are sensitive about candid portrayals of religion, please read the book with caution. I normally do shy away from books that get heavy on religion but this book’s raw power and the way it handles each and every sensitive topic (and there are a lot of them in this one) overpowered every other feeling, and I simply had to keep reading ‘The Poet X’.
Additional Points I Must Make:
- It ended way too soon for me. The story flows effortlessly from beginning to end. The characters are all ones we can instantly connect with and root for, especially Xiomara, and their interactions are so real and amazing, each one of them.
- I loved how non-English words make their way into the book naturally. And I learned so many new words, albeit in another language! Another small way to show inclusion and diversity 🙂
- That contrast between Xiomara’s draft assignments versus her final, actual assignments that she turns in show the conflict in her mind between what she really wants to say and what she thinks she can say (or is comfortable saying) until….
- The mention of Khan Academy in the book made it seem so much more ‘us’ 🙂 (for me, as it is part of our daily lives too)
- The Poet X was a book I felt I had to read-aloud often (and so glad I was by myself at home so bursting into verse at odd times did not make me look odd!)
- One chapter that made me feel even more like I was right there with Xio and her family, was Verses – an active, almost fiery dual-language dialog between mother and daughter
My favorite lines from The Poet X:
If you ask me to pick my favorite lines in this book – well, I would just have to share the whole book with your! Each and every word is powerful and I had to pause, and re-read lines every so often, just because. Here I am sharing a few of those lines that packed a slightly bigger punch than the rest of the book (for me at least). I know I am going to read the whole book all over again.
“I feel myself
stretching my skin apart.
Even with my Amazon frame,
I feel too small for all that’s inside me.“
“My brother was born a soft whistle:
quiet, barely stirring the air, a gentle sound.
But I was born all the hurricane he needed
to lift – and drop- those that hurt him to the ground”
“Every now and then, I dress my thoughts in the clothing of a poem.” (isn’t that simply beautiful!?)
“Hope Is a Thing with Wings
Although I doubt it,
hope flies quick into
my body’s corners.”
“I lay it across my wrist
and cinch the clasps closed.
Her daughter on one side,
myself on the other.”
“My Heart Is a Hand
into a fist…
like fingers that curl
but have no other hand
to hold them
so they just end up
biting into themselves.”
“It almost feels like
the more I bruise the page
the quicker something inside me heals.”
READ ‘The Poet X’ NOW!!
Reading Level: upper middle-schoolers and above
Reread Level: 5+/5
Other verse reads I enjoyed:
There is simply something about them that calls out to me. I loved Kwame Alexander’s ‘The Crossover’ and these books as well here – Sarah Tregay’s ‘Love and Leftovers‘ and ‘Gone Fishing‘ by Tamera Will Wissinger
Question to You, Dear Reader:
Any novels in verse you have read and enjoyed? Do let me know in the comments.
Writing this post as a series for the Ultimate Blog Challenge and Write 31 Days. 31 Days, 31 Books! This is for Day Twenty Seven, a few days later (and some more of catching up to do!)