With the Fire on High – Published 2019
“With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.” – Goodreads
I listened to the audiobook for this one, and it’s narrated by the author. I loved it, and listened to it while I went grocery shopping, laid in bed, and worked around in the house. It’s only about 7 hours, and totally worth it due to the beautiful prose this story is written in!
Emoni has a passion for cooking (an interesting plot line for a YA story, and I loved it; I was hungry all of the time). She’s a teenage mom who lives with her abuela. Her father is in her life, but doesn’t help out financially, nor does he live with her. He floats in and out of her life without consistency. Her baby girl’s father is involved, and they co-parent very well (especially considering they’re teen parents), but they are no longer romantically involved. Her mother passed away when she was younger, and her abuela helps raise her daughter, but money is tight and Emoni has to help out by working on top of taking care of her daughter and being a fulltime student.
This story examines a lot in its short time, as it’s a very quick read. Teen parenting, coparenting, family structures, abandonment, dating when you have a child, whether or not college is the road for everyone, financial struggles, and more. Emoni also sheds light on white privilege (she named her daughter Emma so that she wouldn’t be denied opportunities because of her name), a new guy in town says she didn’t realize she was “black black” and she questions that that even means. Emoni is Black and Latinx, and while she is proud, she also is very aware of the world around her and tries to protect her daughter from those harsh realities.
My one criticism is that I didn’t think a love story was necessary to the plot, and even took away from it a little bit. Emoni is so strong, so self-assured, and so focused. The budding romance felt out of place and distracting. I found myself annoyed when things heated up, whereas I found it endearing when someone was trying to date her.