Xiomara has always kept her words to herself. In her Harlem neighbourhood, her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But X has secrets. Her feelings for a boy in her bio class, the notebook full of poems that she keeps under her bed – and a slam poetry club that will pull those secrets into the spotlight.
Because in spite of a world that might not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to stay quiet.
My second Elizabeth Acevedo book and I was struck again how much I enjoy this free verse style writing, this story is told through poetry, as is Clap When You Land (review here). Our protagonist and poet is Xiomara living in Harlem with her mother, her father and twin brother Xavier; known throughout as Twin. The family originate from the Dominican Republic, Spanish speaking and strict her mother is highly religious and Xiomara is expected to conform to her mother’s cultural and religious standards. But Xiomara has different ideas, expressing her inner thoughts and feelings through the medium of poetry we witness her conflicts over religion, her identity and a boy. Her desire to be free.
This style of writing is intensely visual, vibrant and fast paced. Xiomara was an endearing and sympathetic character and hearing her voice in the lyrical verse made her even more likeable, sharing her vulnerabilities, her sadness and her dreams. Her relationship with Aman is a beautiful and tender first love. A perceptive English teacher made me tear up in her support of Xiomara and the close relationship between the twins, albeit rocky at times was moving. A coming of age story, Xiomara is developing into a woman, not entirely comfortable with her changing body or the attention it brings, this is further confounded by her parent’s and community’s views on women and girls and the obvious double standards noted.
For anyone who has not yet read any of these free verse poetry novels, I would urge you to pick one up. I was initially put off by the concept of poetry, but honestly this style of storytelling is superb, very fast paced, accessible and highly readable. Personally I preferred The Poet X to Clap When you Land, but both were excellent. Also highly recommended is Punching The Air, written in verse, you can read my review here.
Have I convinced you? Or do you already have your own favourite novel in this genre – please do tell me in the comments.
Thanks as always for reading.
About the Author
Elizabeth Acevedo is the New York Times bestselling author of The Poet X, With the Fire on High and Clap When you Land. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from The George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from teh University of MAryland. Acevedo has been a fellow of Cave Canem, Cantomundo and a participant in the Callaloo Writer’s Workshops. She is a National Poetry Slam Champion, and resides in Washington DC with her love.