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THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevado

Having read Elizabeth Acevado’s With the Fire on High, I was excited to go back and read The Poet X.  I was not disappointed.  Acevado creates some of the strongest, most completely developed young female characters I have ever encountered.  Xiomara Batista from The Poet X is no exception.

Xiomara’s mother is extremely religious and has raised Xiomara with strict adherence to the biblical laws and concepts in which she, herself, believes.  As Xiomara’s body has matured, her mother has become more severe and more critical with her requirements of Xiomara’s behavior. Frustrated by her mother’s rules, by the remarks and actions of others about her more developed body and her impulsive responses to these outside forces Xiomara expresses herself by writing poetry.  The reader follows Xiomara as she maneuvers her way through complex (and often conflicting) feelings in her search to discover her own voice.

I was completely absorbed in Xiomara’s journey through all the complicated emotions of wanting desperately to please her parents, simultaneously longing to spend time and effort her mother will not allow on her poetry and her own sexual awakening. The free verse structure of The Poet X absolutely enhances both the focus and the depth of Xiomara’s story.  A successful novel written in free verse requires the author to make all bold, distinctive and specific word choices and Acevado accomplishes this brilliantly.  There are no wasted words in The Poet X.

Xiomara’s love–and need–for music and poetry as a means of expression mirrors the intensity of my own feelings.  I felt sometimes as if she was speaking from my heart as well as her own:

I just needed someone to help me escape

from all the silence.

 

I just needed people saying words

about all the things that hurt them.

The Poet X  is a marvelous teenage/young adult read.  Xiomara’s voice is insightful and achingly real.  I would suggest it primarily as a young adult read due to the fact that some of the content–particularly in reference to Xiomara’s early sexual experiences. These experiences are not graphic by any means, are essential to the story and written just as brilliantly as everything else in the book, but I would want parents and teachers to be aware that it contains this content before recommending The Poet X to a younger reader.

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