The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Poet X
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Poetry
Rating:

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent. 

An honest and beautiful book written in a unique format about a young woman finding herself and her place a world that tells her she’s too much or not enough through the art of spoken word poetry. Would 100% recommend listening to the audiobook while following along with the book!

This was my first time reading a novel in this format, poetry, and while it made it a really unique, enjoyable and fast read, I also felt a little disconnected to many of the characters, except Xiomara. Of course, this was her story. Her thoughts and emotions come through very strongly through Acevedo’s writing and what made me appreciate the style more was listening to it being read by the author on audiobook (which I followed along to with the physical book). The author herself is a spoken word poet and I loved that this was the something that Xiomara was so passionate about. Following Xio’s journey of finding herself through poetry, navigating first love with Aman, maintaining the close bond with her twin Xavier and her best friend Caridad, and dealing with the tumultuous relationship with her extremely pious mother was a very intimate experience.

“And I think about all the things we could be if we were never told our bodies were not built for them.” 

There are a lot of issues tackled within this story and considering it’s told in verse, I thought that they were explored well. Xiomara is a very empowering, driven and smart character who was trying so hard to find her place and where she fit in a society where she has been over sexualized and objectified, and made to feel not good enough. She has for so long let her fists do her talking for her until the day she discovers slam poetry. The way she slowly comes to understand how she sees the world, where she fits in the world, and grows to find beauty in her skin through the power of spoken word poetry is so very beautiful.

“When has anyone ever told me
I had the right to stop it all
without my knuckles, or my anger,
with just some simple words.”

That said, I found the ending quite rushed. After the big incident at her house where the story reached a very heartbreaking and infuriating climax, I thought the issues between Xio and her mother were resolved very quickly and not in a very satisfying way. I was hoping for it to be hashed out a bit more, and although we experience some of the process, it felt like a “too clean” resolution; especially when the tension and misunderstanding was so high, only for everything to be good again in a short time. Especially when this conflict between the two women was such a big part of the story. I wished we’d gotten to really see how Xiomara and her mother came to terms with their vast differences because what happened between them was big and slightly frightening. While I love a happy ending (and maybe I’m just too jaded for saying this lol) this was such a picture perfect one that it felt a little unrealistic.

“I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.” 

Another thing that disappointed me just a little was that we never got to see the poem that she recited at the final show. This is just my gripe but I was so excited to read what she spoke about and I was honestly really sad that we didn’t get to experience it.

“Late into the night I write and the pages of my notebook swell from all the words I’ve pressed onto them. 
It almost feels like the more I bruise the page the quicker something inside me heals.” 

Overall though, this was a beautifully told story and I think it’s one that many young women who don’t feel comfortable in their skin, or who are still looking for a way to fit in as they are, will be able to relate to and feel empowered by. Did I mention that this was extremely quotable? I’m very keen to read more from Acevedo!

Have you read The Poet X? Loved it? Hated it? Felt ‘meh’ about it?
Leave me a comment below and let’s chat!