With The Fire On High Review! // food, family, and favorite of the year

Hi friends! I’m here bright-eyed and so beyond excited to share my thoughts on a book that is one of the most hyped of the year. And guess who’s going to be feeding the hype-dragon today???

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.

It’s extremely rare for me to read a contemporary book and love it with an undying passion. There’s just something that connects my soul to fantasy, and it’s hard to give that up. But this book? It did the impossible. It made it onto my favorites of the year list, and possibly my favorites of all time.

The prose was spectacular. It just pulled me in, and didn’t let me go until I look down at the page number and oh a hundred pages have gone by whoops. I honestly didn’t want this wonderful story to reach its end. Emoni struggles with so so much, and yet she doesn’t let it defeat her. What a queen.

Um, the cover. Duh.

Besides my shallowness, the diversity! Emoni is Afro-Latinx, and there’s so much of the book where both sides of her culture, her heritage, shine through. It’s in the Spanish she speaks with her grandmother, the Philly slang she speaks around the hood. It’s in the food she cooks. Sweet-potato casserole with a Spanish twist? BRAND-NEW IDEA TO ME. There is also so much talk of being proud of one’s history, and how sometimes it can be twisted. The author’s voice shined through so beautifully in how she described Emoni’s feelings.

The world is a turntable that never stops spinning; as humans we merely choose the tracks we want to sit out and the ones that inspire us to dance.

The focus on family is…everything. Do you ever have those moments that make you stop and think like you haven’t before? This book did that for me. Emoni has this incredible, all-encompassing love for her daughter that I truly think only a mother knows. She has love for her grandmother, who has had to raise or help not one, not two, but three generations of children. Family comes before all else, and I think that it’s a special gift for a contemporary to be more focused on family than romance.

And on that note, the romance! It was semi-slow, it was cute, it did what it wanted when it wanted. Malachi is so sweet, and thoughtful! I’ve said this once and I WILL say it again: “why aren’t there more soft boys in literature???” I’m not always going to be falling for the bad boy and not every YA character is going to be either.

For a single moment I feel like the sunlight sneaking over the hill is also sneaking inside me.

The descriptions of food actually gave me life. Emoni has this natural talent in the kitchen where she can tweak recipes and make five-course meals, while I’m over here struggling to make grilled cheese. GRILLED CHEESE. So much of her character and development is shaped by food. It made me gain a whole new appriciation for the culinary arts*.

*and also made me hungry. very hungry.

This is just my own personal, subjective complaint but there IS a bit of sexual content. Definitely not my favorite thing to read about, but I managed to ignore it and not let it hamper my enjoyment of the story!

The whole of me is whole.

I suppose that’s it! I promise you, this rivals The Wicked King for my favorite book of the year, but we’ll have to see who wins come December! Also, don’t forget to let me know your thoughts on the graphics! Have you read this? Have you read the author’s first novel?

11 thoughts on “With The Fire On High Review! // food, family, and favorite of the year

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