Publishers Weekly Review
Harlem sophomore Xiomara Batista isn't saintly like her virtuous twin brother. And her tough exterior-she's always ready to fend off unwelcome advances and unkind words-hides questions and insecurities. As her confirmation nears (after two failed attempts), Xiomara begins to voice her uncertainties about the Catholic faith and patriarchal piety pressed on her by her mother and the church. Both intrigued and disgusted by the advances of her peers and older men, she begins a secret relationship with her lab partner Aman, who seems interested in more than her curves ("who knew words,/ when said by the right person,/ by a boy who raises your temperature,/ moves heat like nothing else?"). Xiomara pours her innermost self into poems and dreams of competing in poetry slams, a passion she's certain her conservative Dominican parents will never accept. Debut novelist Acevedo's free verse gives Xiomara's coming-of-age story an undeniable pull, its emotionally charged bluntness reflecting her determination and strength. At its heart, this is a complex and sometimes painful exploration of love in its many forms, with Xiomara's growing love for herself reigning supreme. Ages 13-up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
Gr 7 Up-Magnificently crafted, Acevedo's bildungsroman in verse is a stunning account of a teen girl's path to poetry. Sophomore Xiomara Batista is simultaneously invisible and hyper visible at home, school, and in her largely Dominican community in Harlem-her body is "unhide-able" she tells readers early on, yet she bristles at how others project their desires, insecurities, failures, patriarchal attitudes toward her. Though she is quick to battle and defend herself and her twin brother Xavier, Xiomara's inner life sensitively grapples with these projections and the expectations of her strict, religious mother. Acevedo's depiction of a faith in crisis is exceedingly relatable and teens, especially those going through the sacrament of Confirmation, will deeply appreciate Xiomara's thoughtful questioning of the Church and how it treats women. Forbidden kisses with a crush and an impromptu performance at an open mic prove to be euphoric, affirming moments for Xiomara: "it's beautiful and real and what I wanted." Acevedo's poetry is skillfully and gorgeously crafted, each verse can be savored on its own, but together they create a portrait of a young poet sure to resonate with readers long after the book's end. -VERDICT Truly a "lantern glowing in the dark" for aspiring poets everywhere. All YA collections will want to share and treasure this profoundly moving work.-Della Farrell, School Library Journal © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
This coming-of-age story from the streets of Harlem centers on Xiomara Barista, a teenage poet seeking to express herself. X has loved writing down her thoughts from an early age. Unfortunately, she doesn't get to share them with her family, due to her mother's strict dedication to making sure X is focused on being a good Catholic girl. When X starts questioning her faith and realizes her brother is hiding his own secrets from their mother, she starts figuring out how she can stand up for herself and her beliefs. The story, though centered around the family drama, explores other poignant themes facing girls today, diving into human sexuality, the psychological impacts of going through an early puberty, and how girls have to fend off advances from men as well as the slut-shaming stigma that simultaneously can come from women. Ultimately, though, this is a powerful, heartwarming tale of a girl not afraid to reach out and figure out her place in the world.--Bratt, Jessica Anne Copyright 2017 Booklist