Elizabeth Acevedo is a Dominican-American poet and author. She currently has published 3 YA books in quick succession, one novel and two verse novels. All three books feature family conflict, the conflict of living between two cultures and a love interest.
Poet X: Acevedo’s first verse novel and the first time I was introduced to the author. I actually discovered this book as it was short-listed for the Carnegie Medal (which it went on to win), I was in charge of a group of pupils who were ‘shadowing’ the prize.
Poet X features Xiomara a 15 year old who is spiralling into conflict at home where her parents have strict expectations and her twin brother is seen as the golden child. X, as she goes by, is introduced to slam poetry in school and encouraged to compete. Entangled in all this is a new love interest.
This novel was one of my early escapades into the verse novel form and was a new experience for a lot of the pupils I was working with. I loved the character’s voice and the pace of the novel.
Clap When You Land: This verse novel is told in alternating chapters between the two lead characters, sisters Yaharia and Camino who know nothing about each other’s existence. One lives in New York whilst the other lives in the Dominican Republic. Tragedy strikes and they discover each other’s existence.
There’s nothing new in the idea of this story, siblings discovering each other in later life, but the verse novel approach and these two clashing cultures lead to a new way in to tell this familiar story. I loved the characters and their respective mother figures. Unlike the other two novels the love interest plays less of a role her which worked well as there was enough happening already.
With the Fire on High: Emoni is a young aspiring chef and teenage mum. Whilst the rest of her year group are trying to juggle applications for college she’s having to look after her daughter Emma, juggle her finances, school work and knowing that being a teen mum Will effect her ability to choose where she goes to school. And then in walks Malachi adding another complication to her life.
Like Clap When You Land I didn’t think there was anything knew and exciting here, you knew from the start where the love interest would go and how things would pan out for Emoni in school. Despite this Acevedo created a great novel, I loved the way she wrote about the food and the presentation of teenage motherhood – the struggle but also the love felt when having a child. I haven’t read many books which feature teen mums and those that do often have a negative portrayal of this relationship, this book was positive but realistic.
I look forward to seeing what she writes next.