Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Rating: 4 stars
Buy the Book: Waterstones, Amazon, The Book Depository
Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review but this did not affect my opinion at all.
Elizabeth Acevado has quickly become a well loved author in the YA community in the past two years. Whilst I have not read The Poet X, I’ve been meaning to read it and I was so happy to get my hands on a copy of her latest novel.
I really loved this book. I love YA contemporaries that are focused on the characters, rather than being plot heavy. They just feel so raw and real. I can’t remember the last teen pregnancy book that I read (the one that immediately comes to mind is Trouble in 2015 but surely I must have read one a lot more recently!) but this is probably my favourite one yet.
For a character driven contemporary to work, you need to really love the main character, and luckily I adored Emoni. She was the perfect balance of fearless and scared. She felt like an actual senior in high school and I loved seeing how she coped with everything.
One of the main takeaways from this book is knowing who will help you in your times of need. Emoni does not have a typical family life but I loved how close she felt to her Buela and her daughter. It just felt so realistic and I could imagine the family perfectly. But I also liked how this book explored her relationship with her father, which is complicated at best as well as her relationship with her Aunt Sarah.
The romance was also a great part of the book. Malachi was such a cute guy and I love how their relationship slowly progressed. I loved their conversations and how natural everything felt between them.
Obviously another amazing part of this book was the exploration of cooking. Emoni’s love for food really shone through and I loved reading about how she would create new dishes. But I also liked the conversations she had with Chef Ayden and the fact that she learnt that creativity isn’t the only thing you need to be a chef. I especially adored the parts in Spain where we saw her cooking and I just wish we got more set in Spain.
I loved how Emoni was proud of her heritage as well. She would have a lot of inner monologue about her struggles with her heritage, especially as her father had a different point of view but I loved seeing it develop. I especially adored the part where she was looking at the Christopher Columbus statue in Spain. (I also loved how in the next chapter, Malachi talked about his interest in Islamic history which is something you never see in a book unless the character is Muslim).
Overall, this book just made me feel very warm inside. With all of the food and the warm, loving family, it was just such a wonderful and comforting read. I highly recommend this book and I will definitely need to pick up The Poet X soon.