Hello humans! I’m not exaggerating when I say I finished this book mere hours ago and as soon as humanly possible sat down to write this review. The Poet X is another example of phenomenal YA contemporary and I couldn’t wait to share my thoughts with you.
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.
What makes this book truly powerful and unique is that the entire story is written in verse. I’ve read books that have a heavy poetry influence (The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night springs to mind) but often those books feel excessively flowery and get boring very quickly. This kind of verse has a bite to it and never gets dull, it grabs hold of you on the first page and doesn’t let you go even after you’re finished reading.
This book spoke to me in a lot of different ways, for one thing, I have a profound love for slam poetry, if I start watching videos on YouTube it can be a few hours before I pull myself back to reality again. I also related to the religious upbringing Xiomara has and struggles with (though mine was far less extreme than hers!). If I ended up relating so strongly to Xiomara I can only imagine how others will find her.
The plot of this book is wonderful, heart-warming as well as heart-breaking, with powerful emotion at its core, perfect for this medium. I foolishly decided to finish reading this at my desk first thing in the morning and had to awkwardly sniffle and hide the fact that I was in floods of tears from my colleagues (bookworm problems).
This book is significant, it’s heavy and it’s powerful but at the same time it has a lightness to it, it’s a breath of fresh air for those caught in a reading slump (or any kind of slump if I’m honest). It is a call to follow your dreams tied up completely with the understanding that sometimes that is a tall order.
I can’t wait to see what other people think of this book. I want to read about teens falling in love with Xiomara and with poetry and getting inspired.
My rating: 5/5 stars
I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Have you read any other novels told in verse? Let me know in the comments below!