The Poet X
Published March 6, 2018
About The Poet X
Fans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing New York Times-bestselling novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth.
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. But she still 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.
I’ve had a copy of this book for years, and somehow I hadn’t managed to read it before. When my youngest was little, I read WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by Elizabeth Acevedo, and I loved the depth and descriptions in the book. Since then, I’ve been a huge fan of this author. So. Finally I read her award-winning, debut novel in verse.
And I loved it.
Which I suppose should not be a surprise.
As mentioned, it’s a novel in verse. Even though the lines are spare, the story is so rich with its descriptions, characters, and emotions. The relationship between Xiomara and her mom. Her brother. The priest. Her best friend, and a boy at school. They’re all so well-developed and described.
I also loved the way the story explored her feelings about her faith. It’s complicated. But Xio doesn’t really feel understood by or interested in church and the things the priest teaches in her confirmation class. Her mom has really specific expectations and beliefs about church and faith. Her brother has other beliefs and values as a devout person of faith. I liked that the story showed a spectrum of belief and experience without making the book really about those things.
Really, this is a story about a girl finding her voice. Believing in her value. Learning about love– how to love herself, how to love someone else, and how to receive love from others, too. It’s about the power of words.
So. Yeah. I feel like in a lot of ways, I’m still in awe of the story. I have a hard copy, but I also borrowed the audiobook (which is read by the author) from the library. As I read, I went back and forth between those two versions, and I really enjoyed both. I definitely recommend this book.
Content Notes on Poet X
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Xiomara is Dominican American.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Brief description of masturbation. Xio sees two boys walking together and realizes they are a couple.
Xio’s mom is very religious and focused on Xiomara’s confirmation and piety. Xiomara attends confirmation classes but has so many questions about her faith and why they aren’t learning stories about girls like her. Her priest says it’s important to let her take time to find the answers to those questions.
Xio describes her brother as being very devout.
Xiomara has a reputation as a fighter. She will beat up anyone who picks on her twin brother or use her fists to defend herself.
References to smoking pot. In one scene, she drinks a beer with a boy.
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