My grad school class on YA literature asks us to read an “award winning YA book from 2017, 18 or 19” and I knew I wanted to read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo because she’s a DC local and I’ve heard great things about the book. It also helps that I read novels in verse prettty quickly. The response for this book isn’t due until April, but my library hold on this book is up next week because everyone and their brother wants to read this book, so I bumped it to the top of my TBR pile and flew right through it!
The Poet X is about a sophomore in high school, Xiomara Batista, who is Afro-Latina (Dominican) and a poet, but nobody knows it. Okay, sorry, I had to. I’ll stop. She loves writing poetry in the leather-bound journal her twin brother, Xavier, gave her, but she’s quiet and trying to be invisible. It’s hard though, because Xiomara is a curvy girl and attracts a lot of male attention. Which really worries her mother, a devout Catholic who wants her daughter to give her life to God and all that jazz. But when Xiomara gets paired with cute Aman as her lab partner and a poetry club gets started at school, Xiomara starts to wonder if maybe she could be something more than the quiet girl everyone thinks she should be. Told in poems, this book draws you in and makes you root for Xiomara in ways you might never have imagined. Novels in verse are often dark, and while this deals with some heavier topics like religion and unwanted male attention and a little violence, it’s not one of those verse novels all about sexual violence or drug addiction, which I appreciated. Many of the poems are quite beautiful and poignant and help you understand Xiomara and her world.
I really enjoyed this book. I’ve read a lot of verse novels in my life, and they’re usually pretty dark, but this one isn’t nearly as dark. It’s heavy, definitely, but there is hope in it and I love that. It also has a reference to female masturbation in it, which you almost NEVER see in YA. It’s short and yet this book still won a major award, the National Book Award, so color me impressed! This book is great. I teared up ,I got angry, I felt so many emotions throughout the book. It unlocks questions of religion and friendship and family and first love and being your own artist and I love books with supportive teachers because the ones I had in high school really helped me become who I am today (and oh you bet I remember the teachers who WEREN’T Supportive…looking at you Miss Kinnear).
Anyway, so glad I read this book! I could have also used it for my “book in verse/book of poetry” assignment for the class, which comes earlier than the “award-winning book” prompt, but I’m going to read Swing by Kwame Alexander for that one. I think one of my goals/resolutions in 2019 is going to be to read at least 10 books of verse/poetry. Originally, I was thinking 5 but I read them so quickly that it doesn’t seem fair to limit it like that.