“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. ”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
I read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo in one sitting. This was not because it was short, but because I was so wrapped up in Xiomara’s compelling story and this unique narrative style that there simply was not a good stopping point.
Xiomara’s life has been ruled by the expectations from others ever since she was little; mainly, expectations dictated by her mother who is a devout Catholic. Over time, Xiomara starts to notice that she is surrounded by contradictions; her mother and the church say one thing, but real life show Xiomara something completely different.
She doesn’t know who to believe, but her trust lies mostly in herself and her own feelings and the belief that nothing she feels or thinks is inherently wrong. She has her twin brother, Xavier, and best friend from church, Caridad, to fall back on for support. But ultimately her mother believes she can shape Xiomara’s life into what she thinks it should be, focused on church and living a religious lifestyle, which is what she wishes hers had turned out to be. Her attempts to box Xiomara into a corner backfire and result in a long-overdue confrontation between them.
I think a lot of people are going to be able to relate to this book. Pressure and expectations whether they be from society, other people or family members, or even ourselves is something everyone experiences. We all feel out of place sometimes, especially as teenagers, and we all question our lives and what we were brought up believing. Xiomara is no different in that respect.
The way her story unfolds was a nail-biter for me. I was so angry at Xiomara’s mom for what she did. The ending was hopeful, at least, but I could not believe the way things turned out. When I finished the book all I could think was wow over and over again. And, that I will continue reading everything Elizabeth Acevedo writes because she knows what she’s doing!
See my review of her second novel With The Fire on High for even more proof. Also, go get this book. And read it.