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WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH
Quill Tree Books
May 7, 2019
Emoni Santiago is a senior in high school, trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Unlike most teenagers her age, though, she has a young daughter to look after. As a young single mother, she relies on support from her grandmother to make her hectic schedule work: school, work, daycare, on infinite loop. The only thing that helps Emoni truly clear her mind and relax is cooking. And she’s good at it. She can create dishes in the kitchen that everyone agrees are phenomenal.
When her school offers a cooking class as an elective, Emoni is excited to join. She doesn’t realize the teacher is a legit chef with loads of experience and professional credibility—and she definitely doesn’t expect to be pushed to excel as much as she is. Emoni is exhausted, but she has to find the strength within herself to do well in school, maintain her part-time job, parent her daughter, support her grandmother, and still find time to raise funds for the class trip to Spain. Quitting isn’t an option, but figuring out how to make it all work seems impossible.
I didn’t realize With the Fire on High was so very YA, but I still enjoyed it. This is a book that I’d love my daughter to read. Emoni is tough, resilient, kind, thoughtful, and smart. Obviously having a baby in high school isn’t the easiest route to go, but she’s making the best of it. She’s a loving mother, a caring granddaughter, and a kind friend. She’s even trying to be a patient co-parent, which isn’t easy, especially when the teenage boy on the other end isn’t looking to be a full-time dad any time soon. And all of the stressors in Emoni’s life don’t take away from her ambition. She wants to achieve something in her life. She has a gift, and she’s not about to throw it away just because life gets a little tough.
Even though I’m not a huge YA fan, I’m so grateful that books like this are out there. And I’m especially happy to see more mainstream #ownvoices choices for younger readers. It’s about time.