I’ll jump right to it, this is a YA book, so before you roast me on that, I want to fully say some of the most impactful books I’ve read in the last 5 years, have been classed as YA (The Hate You Give / On The Come Up ). All I have to say is, give them a chance. I came across this book when I was collating my reading list of Black authors and Elizabeth Acevedo has a few that caught my eye, I have 2 more of her books on my list and if it’s anything like this one- I know it’ll be good. So, after beginning and finishing this book in a week and a half (I had to stop myself so that I could savour some sections) I knew I had to share just how much of a must read it is! Pick up a copy, or I’ll lend you mine. This week’s blog post, we review The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.
The book covers a few months in the life of 15 year old twin Xiomara Batista, who is growing up in New York City to severely strict Dominican parents. She has a passion for writing and poetry; it is her outlet to process her feelings as she attempts to figure who she is in the world. Struggling with typical teenage emotions, her first love, the repression she feels with religion and her desire to be truly seen my her mother and her mentally absent father.
And now his smile is a little sad.
And I think about all of the things we could be if we were never told our bodies were not built for them.
Break it Down:
There were so so many gems in this book, it’s hard to break it down into major moments. I read this book ferociously, as it was unlike any book I have ever read before. It is essentially a book of poems, all the while painting amazing imagery for the reader in such detailed words. I don’t know if I have been as transfixed over a book as much as I have with this book! Xiomara is raw, honest, insightful and tough. She is protective and yet she is vulnerable. Her desire to be seen as an equal to her twin brother within her family structure, to wanting to feel invisible when it comes to the men in her neighbourhood who cat call her and her mother who blames Xiomara’s body for garnering the unwanted attention. Her and her twin are complete opposites, yet they share an interweaving connection they can’t explain, and because of this she fights his battles for him.
In some ways, this book is very much about the dynamics between X and her mother, the matriarch. Her mother’s strong desire to shape X into the person she wasn’t allowed to be, she wanted to be a nun, but was forced into marrying X’s father. The very fact that the couple were told they would not be able to conceive, but had twins meant to her that she needed to devote her life strictly to God for her miracle of motherhood. Because of this, X has to bare the brunt of this pressure, as Twin ( Xavier ) doesn’t have to deal with any of it due to his gender. But his secret is that he isn’t attracted to whom his parents would expect him to be; this secret he shares with X cements their twin bond. I could relate to her difficult relationship with her mother at that age, the fact that as the female she needed to take on the brunt of the responsibilities, like cleaning the house and carrying herself a certain way, I found myself saying ” yup, I’ve been there”. Her clash with her wandering mind and her strict religious upbringing, her mother’s unwillingness to simply see her daughter for who she is and not who she wanted her to be. Xiomara’s obvious love and protectiveness over her twin brother, but her unwillingness to even open up to him when it came to matters of the heart was an interesting dynamic, because she poured her thoughts into her words and he fully supported and often times encouraged her. But Twin never forces her to speak to him, he simply makes it known he was there with his ever present silent support. Their connection is clear and their ability to be there for each other in the midst of teenage angst was really nice to witness. When he notices her struggling to get the words out, his simple nudging of a notebook, or him buying X a new notebook; told her so much in such little words. Her words has such symbolism in the book, because in so many ways she wanted her body to be invisible, to not attract the attention her young, innocent body was attracting in her neighbourhood and school, but in another way she wanted to be heard for her voice, for the things she had to say or the things she couldn’t say. The section where her mother finally finds her note book and destroys it, really felt like a punch to the gut, I felt X’s pain, her deep loss and her despair over her mother’s cruelty. To literally have all of your work, your words, your emotions go up in flames over someone’s rage; I felt like I had lost my life’s work. That section was definitely one of the plateaus in the book.
Just because your father is present doesn’t mean he isn’t absent
To even consider any negative parts/aspects to this book is a travesty, it really was a gem! If I was being extremely picky, I could say that Xiomara was very insightful and perceptive for a 15, almost 16 year old- but I don’t think it was to a point where her voice doesn’t seem genuine. She is a tough, smart and quick tongued, she is growing into her own and questioning things and I don’t think you can be too picky, because if you do, it missed the point.
The RnR Rating:
Would I recommend?:
Of course, I would generally always recommend most books, but this one reads like a dream, it was like little injections of honest and truth bombs, I guarantee you’ll speed through it. It needs to be on your book list if it isn’t already!