The Poet X –  Elizabeth Acevedo
Genre: YA Fiction, Poetry, Contemporary
Pages: 357
Release Date: March 2018
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
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Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighbourhood. 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 her mothers determination to force her 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 mother 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.

I honestly loved everything about this book. It was a BEAUTIFULLY written story about a young girl trying to find her own voice in a world where she feels unheard. The whole book was written in verse…the whole book was a poem. The writing was so lyrical and poetic, I feel like writing the story in verse added more power to the story. It was just so captivating, I flew through the book in less than two days.

Xiomara (pronounced see-oh-mah-ruh) is a 15 year old Afro-Latina living in Harlem, NY with her absent father (he is present but not really present), a god fearing mother and her twin brother Xavier. Xiomara deals with a lot, she has concerns with her relationship with God, she deals with body shaming on a daily basis and her mother who only has sight for her children and God.

Xiomara and her mother have the most complicated relationship out of all of her family members. Although Xiomara is strong and can defend herself, she can’t help but feel small against her mother. Her mother has a black and white mindset towards society, is tied down to her religion and forces it on Xiomara, making it near enough impossible for her to do any of the things she wants to do or be open about anything in her life, including having to hide the fact that she goes to her schools poetry club. I liked the conflict that Xiomara had with religion. I feel like it’s a very relatable topic. She believes in god and wants to live up to her mothers expectations of her, but doesn’t understand why there are so many things that she can’t do because they are deemed as sinful; she wants to do right in the eyes of God but feels like in order for her to do that, she can’t be herself. Xiomara has spent her whole life in the church being told to believe in God and to pray for forgiveness, but as she’s growing older and different situations occur in her life,she begins to question her relationship with God. Xiomara’s insight to religion and the questions she had were relatable and some of the questions she had, I’ve found myself asking too at that age. I feel like Xiomara is a character that a lot of people can relate to.

‘what’s the point of God giving me life if I can’t live it as my own?…Why does listening to his commandments mean I need to shut down my own voice?’ (pg. 57)

As well as her doubts in God, Xiomara also deals with body shaming. She is a 15 year old girl who has a more mature, developed body for someone her age; she’s tall and very curvy and she has to deal with a lot of unwanted attention from every angle; boys (and even some grown men) are always trying to come onto her and then there are girls from her school who call her ‘fast’ and assume she must be doing something to get all the attention that she’s getting. And with her mother telling her that she has to pray extra so her body won’t get her into trouble, Xiomara can’t help but feel like she/her body is a problem.

‘I’m told to have faith in the father, the son, in men and men are the first ones to make me feel so small’ (pg. 59)

In order for Xiomara to deal with everything that is going on, she writes poetry. She spends majority of her time writing poetry about her life and uses poetry as her way of speaking out and using her voice. I loved the poetry in this book. Her poetry is so honest and so well written; you feel so connected with Xiomara when you’re reading it and I love the confidence she gains with her writing throughout the book.

Overall, I feel like this is such a great coming of age story that deals with topics that aren’t really talked about a lot in YA literature but are still important and relatable. I also love the diversity of the protagonist and I would highly recommend.

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