A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X), is an inspiring novel about Emoni Santiago, a half-Puerto Rican, half-African American high school senior and teen mom, who dreams of becoming a chef after she graduates high school. Readers will understand the importance of respect, courage, perseverance, and teamwork. They'll also learn about food safety and how to work in a kitchen, as well as about Spanish, Puerto Rican, and African American culture and history. Emoni talks about why she decided to lose her virginity, and another character questions if she's ready to have sex. There are a few scenes where couples make out and undress each other. A teacher utters unintended sexual innuendos when he has students "taste her chocolate pudding" and asks if Emoni would prefer joining a group and becoming part of a "threesome." Strong langauge is infrequent, with just a few uses of "s--t," "dick," "ass," "bitch," "hell," and "ho." There are mentions of wine, absinthe, beer, and sangria. Teens drink while on a class trip.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
High school hasn't been easy for Emoni Santiago after she got pregnant her freshman year. She's had to work twice as hard as the other students to stay on track while doing everything she can to support her daughter and her abuela. The only place Emoni can take a break from making tough decisions is in the kitchen when she's cooking WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH to create food so good that people call it magic. When her school offers a culinary arts class, which includes a week-long trip to Spain, Emoni’s excited to finally get some hands-on experience working in a kitchen. She knows she has the talent, but does she have the time or the money for the class? With graduation approaching, Emoni must decide if her dreams of becoming a chef are worth pursuing.
Is it any good?
Teens will love the diverse characters, heartwarming relationships, and deliciously rich descriptions of Emoni’s dishes in Elizabeth Acevedo’s inspiring coming-of-age tale. The gorgeous cover art showcases Emoni’s strength, and the quick chapters filled with vibrant details make her story unputdownable. It’s clear that Emoni struggles to put herself first, but with supportive family, friends, and mentors by her side, she realizes that she can still be the best mom to her daughter while simultaneously pursuing her passion. Cooking isn’t just a way for Emoni to provide for her family. It helps her connect with her past, set the course for her future, and learn the importance of respect, courage, perseverance, and teamwork.
As With the Fire on High progresses and readers experience the sour, savory, and bittersweet moments of Emoni’s journey, they’ll be inspired to follow their dreams and have faith that they'll succeed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the various kinds of diversity in With the Fire on High. Why are diverse representations important in children's and young adult literature?
Does the romance portrayed seem realistic and relatable? Do young adult romance novels help readers sort out their feelings and learn how to communicate, or do they create false expectations about teen relationships?
- Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Publication date: May 7, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: August 13, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love coming-of-age tales and stories with characters of color
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.