My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is a Young Adult Coming of Age Contemporary Fiction. It’s written completely in poetry form, which I thought was perfect for National Poetry Month in April. I received my copy in my Page Habit box. It’s not really something I might have picked up on my own, although the format was quite intriguing, and I might have gotten it much later in the year. The book came out in March.
The story follows Xiomara, a 15-year-old girl living in Harlem in the present day. Her family is from the Dominican Republic, but her and her twin brother were born in America. Her mother is a devout Catholic and her father a recovering womanizer who doesn’t speak much. Xiomara has to navigate high school, the neighborhood, her changing body and the remarks from boys and men alike about those changes, as well as her mother’s strict opinions and rules about faith.
I was actually surprised how much faith is the center of this story. Xiomara, in several of the poems, examines her doubt and her struggle with faith and her opinion of God. The line that caught my breath was “God just wants me to behave so I can earn being alive.”
Since the book is mostly written in poetic form, the plot goes pretty quickly. It covers from the end of summer to the beginning of the next spring. So much happens in that timeframe that develops the characters, especially Xiomara and her brother. The book is divided into three parts, and the third part I just breezed through because the plot speeds up and so much of the story really plays out in that last section.
There is profanity in the book, as well as a lot of sexual content. There is one poem about masturbation and several about her relationship with a boy in bio class. The conflict of sexual urges versus waiting to be ready is apparent through most of that relationship.
There are a few moments of violence, but nothing graphic. Xiomara, before she really gets into the poetry, relied on her fists to protect herself and her brother. But that really was more just referenced than spelled out.
I think it might be a good book to read with a mother and daughter. It definitely would spark conversation with the endless pressures young girls deal with in today’s society as well as within the church. I would recommend it, but with the caveats of the profanity and sexual content. But the ending of the book is so beautiful. Flawed, but completely beautiful, which is why I give it four stars and a recommendation.