Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Synopsis (via Goodreads): 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.
“My brother was born a soft whistle:
quiet, barely stirring the air, a gentle sound.
But I was born all the hurricane he needed
to lift - and drop- those that hurt him to the ground.”
Thought-provoking, heartbreaking, and empowering. It's been ages since I've read a book written in verse, but I thought it was perfect for Xiomara's story. She expresses herself through poetry, and the words flew from the pages to fill my ears and ultimately my heart.

Highlight. Highlight. Highlight. If I had read a physical copy, it would be covered in notes. There were so many amazing quotes and phrases in this book; it would be impossible for me to share them all! “And I think about all the things we could be if we were never told our bodies were not built for them.”

Elizabeth Acevedo has written a story for the soul. One day the words will fade from my memory, but I will never forget how this book made me feel. 

Please believe me when I say that you need this book in your life! Especially the audio version! The author is the narrator, and she knows the characters better than anyone else. There were a lot of sounds (sighs, tongue clicks, etc.) that would have been missed had I read a physical copy. I think those small details really enriched the overall story and made the characters more realistic.

One of the great things about books written in verse, is their ability to tell impactful stories with very few words. I felt like I was living and breathing Xiomara's thoughts and feelings, and it was easy to get lost in her story.

Every character was important, regardless of how often they appeared in the book. The guys that groped and harassed Xiomara effected her experiences and her writing. Her father was absent even when he was present. Her twin, Xavier, was repeatedly saved by her fists and her fury. Her mother was too involved and wanted to control everything, even the thoughts in her head. Her best friend was her opposite in every way, but she was always there and never waivered. A teacher, a lab partner, a priest, a random person on the train -- everyone played a role. I really enjoyed seeing how they helped to shape Xiomara over time.

The one thing that bothered me was Xiomara's relationship with her family. Her father and brother were too silent and frequently ignored what was happening around them. Her mother was abusive with her words and her religion, and I hated how one-sided it was. Xiomara was treated differently because she was a girl. She needed to pray that her body wouldn't attract unwanted attention, like it was somehow her fault that people were creeps and couldn't keep their thoughts to themselves. I hated that her family wasn't more supportive and understanding.

Xiomara was an authentic character that I think a lot of people will be able to relate to. She is teenager trying to find her place in the world, which isn't always easy. She struggles with her body and the way it's perceived by others. She wants to express her thoughts and feelings, but doesn't know how. She's full of emotions and desires and dreams, but also wonders whether or not they're allowed. She's perfectly imperfect -- just like everyone else.


  1. I love poetry as a genre, but I'm not sure I would be able to read a novel written in verse. I understand why this one was, but I'm sure it would work better for me if it were a regular novel interspersed with Xiomara's slam poetry. As it is, I don't dare go there, though it sounds interesting for so many reasons. I don't know...the idea of reading a novel in verse feels weird to me.

    Your review was kind of poetic too!

    1. I love reading books written in verse! The words just slip from one line to the next, and they paint a beautiful picture without filling the pages. It's musical and poetic, and I love it! This was my first verse audiobook, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! It reads like slam poetry, which is amazing, and I believe the author has some experience with it. There was an intensity I wasn't expecting, and I thought the story was empowering and beautiful. Acevedo is one hell of a writer!

      I think you should try everything at least once! You might fall in love with books written in verse. If you want, I can give you some recommendations! There are a lot of great ones out there, but I highly reckoned starting with this one. <3

  2. Once I make it through the holidays I'll be requesting this one.

    It will probably be one of the instances that the audio will work better for me since I struggle reading verse.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. I hope you love it as much as I did! I already want a physical copy for my shelves. I plan on having all three of my children read it when they're older. They need to be able to understand what the main character is going through, because most of the content is meant for older children. However, I think The Poet X delivers a powerful message that a lot of people will be able to relate to.

      Let me know what you think!

  3. It's the first time I hear about this one. It's great to have good characters like that!

    1. You should really read this one! It's a new favorite. :)

  4. I really loved this one but you're so right about her mother. I was appalled at the things she said to her far too often. I listened to this on audio and the author narrates and it was so fantastic. I was happy to see this won the NBA!

    1. Right?! I understand that her mother was from an older generation, but she was brutal! I hate to think of children living in such restricting and rigid circumstances. My parents forced me to go to church, but I was never punished for not wanting to participate.

      Acevedo was an amazing narrator! I hope she does more books in the future. <3

  5. I wish I had listened to the audio, because I have checked out some of Acevedo's performances on YouTube and she's amazing! I loved this book and the way and the things Acevedo tackled in it.

    1. Acevedo has YouTube videos? I can't wait to check them out! Her writing was so amazing, and I loved how she narrated. I really hope she narrates her books in the future (and that three are more books). It's definitely a story that will stay with me for a long time! If you want to listen to the audio, it's only three hours long. You'd be able to get through that it no time!


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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless