Review: With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo

‘The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely choose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance.’

Publisher: Quill tree books.

Release date: May 7th 2019.

Pages: 400

Representation: Afro-Latina main character, young/Single parent, Lesbian, BIPOC

Trigger warnings: Teen pregnancy, Racism, Mention of shooting, mention of abortion, mention of death

Summary: As a single parent with a daughter to care for and her Abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions. She knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain—and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life—and all the rules everyone expects her to play by—once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Purchase the book using the following links to support Indie bookshops, and me:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

With the fire on high is the perfect recipe for a light-hearted coming-of-age-read; A pinch of hopes, a dash of dreams, a cup of struggles and a sprinkle of romance on top.

It was the cover of this book that drew me in; it’s one of the most beautiful book covers I’ve seen. I don’t read many contemporary books, but after seeing the cover and the lady in the bookstore recommending it to me after seeing me staring at it, I had to pick it up.

The story is simple, and the plot is subtle, but it’s very realistic. The characters are so diverse; their culture and ethnicity are vital to the plot and explored in a way that’s easy to understand, even for those with no relation. (I don’t know much about the book’s cultures, so I can’t comment on whether these are accurate or inaccurate, so I didn’t let that affect my rating.) There is an LGBT character whose sexuality is treated as a regular thing, as any straight character would be, which is the bare minimum for LGBT characters but doesn’t seem to happen much in books. The main love interest of the book was also respectful of Emonis’s emotions, feelings and wants for the relationship; I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I’ve read a lot of books where the “perfect” guy doesn’t seem so perfect.

I enjoyed the fact that I could understand all of Emoni’s decisions entirely, it made her likeable, and she genuinely seemed like a realistic teenage girl/mother. The balance between activity and emotional exploration was outstanding.

The things that ruined this book for me were the repetition of calling Emily “baby girl” and the fact that three times Elizabeth used the line “I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.” I know that line says a lot, but it’s so overused in YA novels that it ruined an original book completely. One is okay, but by the third one, I was irritated. I know this may seem like an over-reaction, but it’s the most overdone line in YA novels that there is. The chapters were also concise, which meant a lot of scenes switched rather quickly; it was hard to keep up with.

Overall, this book is straightforward and subtle, but an excellent light read.

Shining glory: The emotional descriptions were superb; you could understand all the characters’ feelings, and how they led to their actions.

Fatal flaw:
Overused expressions pull you out of the story and make you almost regret picking it up. ‘I let go of a breath I didn’t know I was holding?’, maybe let go of that phrase.

Read this if: You want a lighthearted, but emotional read. You want to read a book with the representation of a strong, unique black woman, and with diverse characters whose representation isn’t just a token. You want a cute, slow-burn romance where ‘Mr. Perfect’ is actually a good guy.

Skip this if:
You prefer books that are more plot-driven. You want something that requires some brain power; this is no high fantasy. 

Purchase the book using the following links to support Indie bookshops, and me:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: