Hey guys! I hope you’re having a good Sunday. School has FINALLY broken off for the October holidays, so I’m in a very good mood today 😄 I also played Mario Kart for three hours and had cake for my brother’s birthday, which makes a nice change!
For today’s post, I’m going to be reviewing With the Fire on High. I picked this up fairly recently and absolutely devoured it in two days, whilst I was off sick. It was a really great book and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you!
With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.(Goodreads)
OKAY. This book gave me so many feels, oh my gosh!! It was so cosy and gave me such a family vibe and I just loved it!
A big factor in why I liked this book was that Emoni, our main character, was ACTUALLY LIKABLE. Time and time again I see protagonists who are just bland cardboard cutouts, with no drive or personality, no defining features. But Emoni was such a fiery, empowering lead! It was really easy to sympathize with her and her struggles, and she definitely had a bit of attitude that stuck with her throughout the whole book (another thing – consistency in main characters!! This was done so well here).
Almost all of the other characters were also very easy to fall in love with. ‘Buela – oh my gosh, I love this woman with my whole heart and I’ve never even met her. She just had such a kind soul, and an open heart, and was just the nicest person. Absolutely love her ❤️
Malachi was also a great character. I felt he contrasted to Tyrone in so many ways, but for good reasons. I did feel his character lost a little bit of substance towards the end, but overall he was a great guy. Charming, funny, respectful, just a really nice person who was a good addition to the book.
And let’s talk about Angelica – that girl said lesbian rights! Although I wish we could have seen a little more of her and Laura, I thought their relationship was done well – not shoved in to keep people happy. It was portrayed in a very natural way, and as an LGBTQ+ teen I was so happy.
In fact, the representation in this book was insane! All different kinds of cultures and skin tones and backgrounds, and it was wonderful to read about. It’s not often you get this diverse of a cast, so it was so refreshing to get different perspectives, and also to learn about how Emoni and her family upheld certain traditions, and what she thought about other cultures.
Getting back to characters, I just loved how Emoni had this incredible support system that stuck with her. Don’t want to give away everyone’s names if you haven’t read the book, but by the end I was just so happy that all these people came together to be there for her. It made my little heart happy!
Another thing this book deals with is teen pregnancy, and its consequences. I thought this was handled really well, and covered a lot of important points – abortion, expenses of raising a child, even who gets custody, and so many other things. Tyrone and Emoni had an agreement, and they stuck to it, and it shows that even when you think things are impossible, you can make light out of a situation.
There were a couple of things left undeveloped, which is probably why I decided to bring this book down to four stars. Couple of potential spoilers up ahead, so I’ll put a warning before and after in case you haven’t read the book yet.
One small thing I thought was weird was Pretty Leslie’s character arc. At first she seemed like an okay kind of girl, then we were meant to think she was a mega-bitch, and then I thought she’d have a redemption, maybe a small scene between her and Emoni where they talk things out. And we did get a glimpse of that, but I felt a lot was left unresolved, and so the ending seemed weird because we never really found out how things stood between the two of them.
POTENTIAL SMALL SPOILER WARNING
Let’s talk about Malachi and Emoni. I SHIPPED THEM ALL THE WAY. The thing is, I thought their relationship was left on a really weird note, and I was super unsatisfied with the ending.
IN NO WAY does this mean I think they should’ve “gone there” whilst they were in Spain. I 100% respect their wishes. Throughout the book, even, I was totally okay with the fact that Emoni didn’t want to rush into a relationship, especially after Tyrone and her pregnancy. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still have quality scenes together. I felt a lot of their relationship was rushed towards the end – we had a paragraph at most describing their prom date, and things after that just kind of dissolved away. I loved their relationship, I just wish it had developed a little bit further nearer the end.
One more thing – Malachi’s brother?! I mean, the fact that he died was barely even mentioned! They skirted over the topic entirely. Again, I understand that maybe Malachi didn’t want to bring it up, or perhaps the author didn’t want much violence within the novel, but something as significant as a sibling dying surely needs to at least be talked about. Malachi made one or two references to it, but (and I hate to say this) never seemed particularly sad. But hey, that’s grief – it does different things to everyone. I’ve not lost a really close family member, so I definitely can’t speak from experience here. In no way do I mean to offend Elizabeth Acevedo here, just thought it seemed a little odd.
SPOILERS OVER 🙂
It sounds like I have a lot of complaints about this book, but I promise you I loved it! Another thing I enjoyed was the simplicity of each element of the plot that combined to make a fascinating storyline. Emoni’s job at the Burger Joint, juggled with fundraising for the Spanish trip, along with raising her daughter, maintaining a social life, cooking, helping out ‘Buela, schoolwork… it created a lot of hustle and bustle that was so interesting to read about.
Finally – let’s talk about the food, and the cooking. I’m so jealous of Emoni’s talent in the kitchen, and it was awesome to read about it! How she shared recipes with her Aunt Sarah, how she always tried to place the different ingredients in a new dish, and of course how she made every single dish her own, even going against orders 😂 I want to try EVERYTHING that was described in this book, because I’m so hungry after reading!
In conclusion, I rate With the Fire on High 4 stars out of 5! I thought it was a great book filled with lovable characters, a stable plot, and lots of food description that left me starving 😂 Would definitely recommend this if you haven’t already picked it up – do yourself a favour and give it a go!
Well, that was a lengthy review, but as always I just have far too much to say, haha! I really hope you enjoyed, thank you so much for reading! I hope you all have a brilliant rest of your day, and I’ll see you all soon! ❤