The Poet X is a stunning debut full of powerful words, fantastic social commentary, and a compelling story about the importance of finding your own voice.
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.
There is no denying that The Poet X is lyrical. It’s slam poetry style makes it easy to absorb, the pages turning faster and faster. In true slam poetry style, each poem packs a punch. Whether it is because it so accurately conveys the ache of family, or the injustice of sexism, or the confusion of youth – each poem leaves its marks and no words are wasted.
What I especially adored is the ways in which Acevedo talks about the challenges: the sexism, the religious influences, the necessity of having space to speak. It makes this entire book poignant. In this culture of self repression and shame, X has this disconnect with our body – a guilt associated with its unruly actions. I have never so accurately seen that portrayed in a book. Because of that, I think this would be a fantastic book for young adults because it deals with puberty, the way the world sees you differently, the ways people try to police and control our body.
Additionally, X has an even further conflict because her mother is extremely religious. She comments frequently on the struggles she has with her religion not representing her (in terms of image and appearance) and even the inconsistencies she sees in its rhetoric. I loved that Acevedo let us see into this other side of X and the additional conflicts she faces at this time in her life – a time of change and new realizations.
What I loved even more was X’s journey of realization. There’s this new knowledge she picks up from on society where the truth doesn’t serve her, where her words are not taken seriously. It becomes ever more important for X to find that space to grow, to bloom, and to speak. But where can she find it?
The Poet X is a story about the relationship we have with ourselves, our feelings, and our family. Ultimately it’s also a story that asks us what the right thing to do is: Do we protect our family and hurt others? Do we follow our heart and betray our religion? Do we follow our religion and hurt our family? In this confusing mess of loyalty and betrayal: who will protect us and be our ally?
Acevedo has such a way with words that boil does these letters to something that screams at you with insistence, something that touches your heart tenderly, and something that moves you to tears. I wanted to highlight so many of these words – to hear them aloud and feel the resonance in my heart.
Make sure you find The Poet X on Goodreads.