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Review of The Poet X

The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
High School    HarperTeen    361 pp.    g
3/18    978-0-06-266280-4    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-266282-8    $9.99

Fifteen-year-old Xiomara, whose name means “one who is ready for war,” has been fighting her whole life. The self-described “brown and big and angry” Dominican girl from Harlem furiously confronts catcalling boys, chafes under her Catholic parents’ restrictive rules, and both adores and resents her “genius” twin brother, who seems to be everything she’s not. She finds moments of peace by writing in her poetry journal, joining a spoken-word poetry club, and exploring a blossoming romance with Aman, her science partner. The slow-burning suspense of what will transpire when devout Mami discovers Xiomara and Aman’s clandestine relationship is eclipsed only by the devastation that occurs when Mami finds and reads Xiomara’s candid journal. But Xiomara must brave Mami’s ire if she is ever going to realize her writing dream. Spoken-word artist Acevedo’s debut verse novel is an arresting portrait of a young poet coming into her own. In nearly every poem, there is at least one universal truth about adolescence, family, gender, race, religion, or sexuality that will have readers either nodding in grateful acknowledgment or blinking away tears. “It almost feels like / the more I bruise the page / the quicker something inside me heals.”

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Jennifer Hubert Swan

Jennifer Hubert Swan is director of library services and middle school librarian at Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City. She is also a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

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