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  • Phenomenal

    Emoni is a 17 year old Puerto Rican girl living in Philadelphia with her 'Buela (grandmother)...she's also a mother to a 2 year old baby named Emma, who she endearingly refers to as Babygirl. Her big passion since being not much older than her daughter, is cooking. She's not just...good at it, she's gifted, her 'Buela believes it's magic. With The Fire On High has such a cosy, homely, feel-good vibe to it and I loved seeing Emoni's journey of finding her place in the world, despite the obstacles life has thrown at her. There are so many wonderful characters that I found myself rooting for, especially Emoni and Malachi! This book deals with some serious topics like teenage pregnancy and racial prejudice; as a black girl, living in such a white centric country and the expectations of her in the Puerto Rican community where she lives in Philadelphia. What hit me hard in this story was Emoni's decision to give her baby a 'white' sounding name in order to give her better choices in life, because of the discrimination she herself experiences. There's a great deal of empathy in this book, it actually felt difficult to distinguish Emoni as a fictional character and not a real-life person that I've come to know and care about. The author has clearly taken the time to research teenage pregnancy, what it's like to raise a child when a parent is still very young themselves and something that really shines through in the book is what a good mum Emoni is. Elizabeth Acevedo has such a gorgeous, poetic way of telling a story that pulls you all the way in, she's now one of my go to authors. The illustrations throughout the book are stunning and I really want to try Emoni's recipes as they sound incredible. Thank you very much to Readers First and Hot Key Books for With The Fire On High.

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  • A Warm, Confidence Building Story

    Emoni is a 17 year old mother to a toddler in Philadelphia. With her baby to care for, bills to pay and Senior year to pass, she doesn't have a minute or a dollar to spare. However, her real passion comes out when she cooks – she has a natural talent for pairing unusual flavours, and leaving people emotionally touched by her food. When an opportunity to take a culinary arts class comes along, it feels impossible. But Emoni carries a quiet strength that will help her to push the boundaries of what she thinks is possible, and with courage, who knows how far she may go? With The Fire On High is a beautifully paced story, following a remarkable young woman's difficult but rewarding journey towards adulthood. Emoni hasn't started off on an easy path; she was never handed the world on a platter. On the contrary, she is in many ways struggling just to make it through her teen years alive and as unscathed as possible, which is not as easy as it seems when you have a toddler, and only your grandma to rely on in all the world. Emoni's emotional maturity and resolve to be responsible for her family are highly inspiring. She doesn't balk at the social challenges of teenage motherhood, instead standing tall against the titters and the cruel whispers, reminding herself that she is strong and capable. I think we could all use that reminder sometimes, that most of the time when people are cruel to you it's their issue, not yours. I always enjoy a little 'everyday magic' in fiction, and this book was no exception. Emoni's gift with food was a very fun addition to this story, and I think that Acevedo played it just right, giving her magic real credence without overdoing it and sliding into fantasy. Many people have small and simple gifts that we may never really understand, but they are special and worth acknowledging. Something I absolutely adore about this book is the warm and happy feeling it carries almost all the way through. We are all used to dramatic fiction following the same patterns, which leads to a giant crux moment of disaster, where it feels like everything has gone wrong and there is no going back. I find that story pattern exhausting if I'm completely honest, and I was wonderfully surprised to find that this book is different. There are a lot of moments in Emoni's story when things don't go right and when she feels she is at the end of her tether, but it carries on, it flows, and we are not at any point left gasping and stressed to pieces, wondering how things can be fixed. I find this to be a much more natural flow for this type of story – after all, we are supposedly reading a snippet from the middle of someone's life, which is never a neatly plotted, 'A to B to C then finished' pattern. We all go through multiple ups and downs all at the same time, and rarely do we face those world-stopping moments, followed by a quick tidy up and some nice closure. I truly enjoyed the pace and pattern of this book, and would love to read more books that make me feel the way this one did. My only criticism of this lovely book is that although the pacing was fantastic, the chapters themselves were a little too short even for me, and I love short chapters. Many of them were a page and a half or two pages long, and that began to make the text feel a little choppy. I wouldn't have minded short chapters in this story, but I think maybe twice as long would have been better for my taste. With The Fire On High is a beautifully developed, emotionally perceptive and soul warming story of a teenage woman's struggle for wholeness. Emoni's path is riddled with pain and fear and difficulty, but her story shows the beauty that can be found in the rockiest of places, and the value of the simple things in life like love, good food, and above all, family.

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  • Faith

    Emoni Santiago is that teenage girl your parents always warned you to keep away from. Her mother is dead and her father is absent so she is being raised by her grandmother and is from a relatively insalubrious neighbourhood. Even worse she got pregnant at 16 and decided to keep the child, even though she is estranged from the baby-daddy. She also had the audacity to stay at her Charter school, wandering the hallways with her protruding belly instead of hiding away from "decent society". Nothing really changes does it. Heck, I went to secondary school (roughly equivalent to middle and high school) in the early 1980s and in every year that I was there at least 1 girl of 14, 15 or 16 would turn up pregnant (usually 2 or 3). Even worse this was a Catholic High School with nuns as the head and deputy headteachers so you would have thought we would have been morally immune. But no, teenagers are teenagers the world over and it's no different in the 21st century than it was in the 20th. What Ms Acevedo does with this book is show not to judge a book by it's cover. Yes Emoni is mixed race, yes she is a teenage mother, yes she is from a cash poor home. All things that the media tells us to fear and to hate. Yes Emoni is a loyal friend, yes she is a good mother, yes she works hard both in school and at the Burger Joint. All things that the media tells us are to be applauded. Emoni narrates the book and she is warm and rather wise. She struggles to balance her life and has her failures and her triumphs - in fact she is far more mature than I and I am almost at my half century. From early on in the book it is very hard to escape the pull of her personality and be sucked in to the trivialities of daily life and to really pull for her when things get tough. I never once felt the touch of the author in the book, it felt wholly authentic as the voice of a 17 year old. I wouldn't go so far as to say I laughed and I cried with her; but I was definitely invested in her life. The only downside in the whole thing for me was Malachi. As a character he is great and probably just what Emoni needs. However, he was a little bit too good to be true for my taste. Even worse I started to find myself humming the Fresh Prince theme tune after finding out his reasons for moving to live with his Aunt (admittedly he only moved across Philly and not to Beverley Hills). I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It did feel a little "pulled back" in places but maybe this is to do with the target demographic rather than any failing of the authors. Definitely a wonderful story that really does explore the nature of being a human. THIS IS AN HONEST REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK RECEIVED FROM READERS FIRST

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