The Poet X
Xiomara Batista is used to staying silent. Her Papi mostly ignores her, and her Mami interprets most statements as talking back. At school, she tries to keep her head low and escape from notice—especially from the notice of boys who comment constantly on her curves. Aside from her best friend Caridad and her twin Xavier, the only place she can let herself be heard is in the pages of her notebook. The new tenth grade school year might change all of that, though. Xiomara’s new English teacher, Ms. Galiano, keeps encouraging her to join the poetry club and introduces her to the magic of slam poetry. And her new lab partner, Aman, isn’t just cute—he also really listens to Xiomara and to her poetry. But Xiomara knows she cannot trust these new changes. She can’t join the poetry club, because Mami insists that she go to church for confirmation class. And as for dating Aman, or any boy? That is completely out of the question. Still, as Mami becomes more and more strict with Xiomara, Xiomara is finding it harder and harder to suppress her thoughts and feelings, and her desire for poetry.
Elizabeth Acevedo’s new verse novel is stunning. The poems are individually well crafted and vivid, and in sequence they develop a tense, compelling story. The characters of Xiomara and Mami are complex and nuanced, and the secondary characters of Twin/Xavier, Aman, and Papi are also well developed. The audio version, narrated by the author, works perfectly for the book; a major thread of the story is how Xiomara learns to narrate and perform her own slam poetry, and the poems that form her story are clearly meant to be spoken and heard.
Naomi Lesley ©2018 Parents’ Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.