The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – You’ve Heard That This Book is Amazing; You’ve Heard Right

Text: The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo.

When I shared that I was going to be reading The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such uniform choruses of praise and excitement and enthusiasm. So many of my reader and blogging friends, regardless of their distinct reading niche, tastes, and preferences, all agreed on one thing: The Poet X was an incredible book, was absolutely loved, and a favourite among many.

Carrying everyone’s love for this book as well as my immense expectations of this book, I am here to tell you this: listen to the people who are telling you to read The Poet X, because they are right. The Poet X is a tour de force, Acevedo’s words a force to be reckoned with, and one of the best books I have read this year so far.

A searing story about a teen’s relationship with the world

Written entirely in verse and slam poetry, The Poet X follows Xiomara, a fifteen year old Dominican teen with a fierce and loyal heart who fights with her fist (to fend off advances from local boys) and fights with the private words in her leather notebook. Acevedo powerfully explores all areas of Xiomara’s life, particularly with how she grapples with adolescence and identity. Not only does the story examine the relationships she has with people, in particular her family life and the fraught and tenuous relationship with her deeply religious mother, and her tentative and exciting new relationship with a boy, The Poet X also explores the relationship Xiomara has with the world, her body, and her Dominican and religious identity.

Portraying her day-to-day life, readers will see how Xiomara wrestles with the perceptions that others have of her, and the ways she resists these perceptions and how these perceptions shape her to be the person she is becoming. Acevedo explores this blurry spacse that Xiomara treads, as we see how the intersections of her identity and the complexities of her life weave together to provide a holistic and thorough examination of Xiomara’s life. The shining beacon of hope in this story is how Xiomara finds a tether of who she wants to become in poetry – and how she finds peace in poetry, how it inspires her, how she expresses herself with it, and how it ignites a passion that empowers her to be the person she wants to become. The Poet X shows how poetry, something Xiomara is passionate in, helps her understand the world around her and helps her find her voice.

About familial expectations and religion

A significant portion of the story is Xiomara questioning and struggling with her religious beliefs and Catholic faith, and how this causes conflict and friction between her and her religious mother. The candid portrayal of how religion and familial expectation intersect is one of reasons why The Poet X is so emotional, evocative, and hard-hitting. With ever-increasing pressure for Xiomara to commit to the Catholic faith from her mother, The Poet X explores the heavy weight of family expectations, and how such expectations – and the thought of going against those expectations – can shape and dictate the relationships that we have with our family.

Furthermore, her mother’s religious beliefs and expectations also shape other areas of Xiomara’s life. Not allowed to date, not allowed to attend her school’s slam poetry club, and being consistently compared to her Xavier or ‘Twin’, her twin brother who starkly contrasts her rough edges and tough exterior, The Poet X examines the oppressive and stifling effect of such heavy expectations from family members, and how Xiomara wrestles with these expectations and her conflict and, ultimately, how she eventually finds power in her own words.

About growing up and the conflict of growing in

The Poet X is acute in its insight, not only because it portrays how Xiomara perceives the world around her and carves her place in it, but the story also portrays how Xiomara is forcefully placed into rigid boxes and expectations of how she should be and exist. From things as simple as walking down the street to things as challenging and fraught as navigating a new relationship, Xiomara is faced with critical voices of ways of how to be and how to exist and how to be proper and right, thus diminishing her way of being and exploring and her existence as a teenage Dominican girl.

Xiomara’s experiences of being confronted with criticism to diminish yourself and to take up as little room as possible incredibly relatable – so much that it almost hurt. Being a teenage girl is tough, not only do teens have to navigate their adolescence and the changes that come with it, but teenage girls are confronted with ideas that police behaviour, expression and growth, often at the cost of their passions, curiousity and expression to fit these neat boxes of what it means to be a teen girl – and for Xiomara, she has to grapple with religiosity, her body and sexuality as a teen and a girl, familial expectations, and being Dominican as well. At times, Xiomara had to diminish or hide parts of herself to fit these overwhelming expectations – an experience many teens will know extremely well.

MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

I don’t think I could ever do The Poet X justice with my review. It truly is phenomenal in every way. The poems on their own are sharp, brilliant, and absolutely bold, and is one of the most memorable, relatable, and most powerful books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I cannot recommend The Poet X enough – in fact, I firmly believe it’s required reading.

Goodreads | Book Depository | My short review on Goodreads


Is this book for you?

Premise in a sentence: A Dominican teen explores faith, identity, and relationships through her poetry.

Perfect for: Readers who love to read stories in verse; readers, especially teens, who enjoy stories about adolescent experiences; readers who enjoy stories about identity and faith.

Think twice if: You aren’t a big fan of stories written in verse.

Genre: young adult, contemporary, poetry

Trigger/content warning: parental physical and emotional abuse, non-consensual sexual contact, anti-fat rhetoric (challenged)


Let’s discuss!

I’m so thankful to everyone who yelled at me to read this book. I had to wait a long time for my turn to read The Poet X via the library, but it was absolutely worth the wait. I cannot wait to read Acevedo’s next book, With The Fire On High — I have no doubt that it will be splendid.

  • Have you read The Poet X? What did you think of it?
  • What is the last book that you read that was written in verse?

19 thoughts on “The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – You’ve Heard That This Book is Amazing; You’ve Heard Right

  1. I loved The Poet X so much! I only read it recently, but it feels like more and more people are reading it lately so hopefully it’s getting the attention it deserves. I completely agree with you; this should be required reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this book so so much I’m glad you enjoyed it as well. One of the things that caught me the most off guard about this book was how deeply and emotionally I could relate to and connect with Xiomara I didn’t expect that considering we come from such different backgrounds but so much of what she experiences felt so real it was hard to read at times. It was one of the best books I read in 2018 without a doubt.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Aurora! I hear you and I get where you’re coming from. I related to Xiomara as well and I’m super glad that you did too, especially so deeply.

      I can’t wait to read her next book!! 😊

      Like

  3. I am SO GLAD that you loved this as much as I did!! It’s seriously an outstanding novel and I can’t wait for her new one! This is a brilliant write-up too, you captured so much without any spoilers! #reviewgoals

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yay! So happy to see you loved this book. I listened to the audiobook last year and fell in love with it. I’d venture to say it is probably one of my favorite audiobooks ever. Only Elizabeth Acevedo could have narrated it so well.

    Before I read this one, I’d read Brown Girl Dreaming and Listen, Slowly that are both written in verse. If you haven’t read those, I highly recommend them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that’s high praise. 😱 I read it via a physical copy but am pretty interested to reread it as an audiobook. 👀

      I love Brown Girl Dreaming! Such a good book. I haven’t read Listen, Slowly, but thank you for the recommendation! 😊

      Like

  5. This sounds so good! I love stories told through poetry. I’m really interested in the dynamic with her family and her struggles with religion – it’s something so many kids go through but rarely feels portrayed in a way that feels accurate.

    Have you ever read anything by Sarah Crossan? She writes novels in verse and they are beaaaautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’ll love THE POET X, Lydia! It’s so so good and it just really nails a lot of its discourse whilst being realistic from the perspective of a teenager? I love it.

      I have! I’ve read ONE which I quite liked. I haven’t read her other books though – do you have any recommendations?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I read it quite a few years ago but I really like The Weight of Water by her as well. It’s about a young girl and mum immigrating to the UK and how the girl deals with her mum, who, if I remember rightly is going through some mental health issues and generally adjusting to a place where she doesn’t have anyone. Again her writing is just really beautiful and quite gutting at times.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This was a beautiful review! It reminded me of everything I loved about The Poet X! If you’re looking for another great book in verse I’d recommend One by Sarah Crossan! I currently have two books in verse out from the library and I’m excited to see what I think of them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Malka!
      Oooh yes, I’ve read ONE! I read it quite a few years ago but really enjoyed it; I think it was the first book I’ve ever read in verse so it was special to me.

      What books did you get out? I’m curious! 😍

      Like

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