The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: A Lyrical, Impactful Debut

4.5 stars

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. She has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking, but she still has lots to say and pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook.

This becomes even more important after she catches feelings for a boy 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 keeps to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend. But she wants to.

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

🌸 I’d recommend to anyone 14+ for a really relatable and very teenage feeling read. Sometimes it might feel more mature, but I think teens can handle it and will ultimately benefit more from how much they can relate.

Not only is The Poet X a National Book Award Winner, it’s also just a fantastic book in general, and completely deserves all the awards. 

I found it to be both lyrical and poetic (no pun intended) as well as real and wholly relatable. Xiomara is both fierce and real and someone I love reading about, and I am so happy her story was told. 

The Poet X is one of those books that actually explores family relationships and Xiomara and her mother have such a complex relationship, which I was all for

Xiomara is a very real teen in the way that she has restrictions and her mother is protective and she struggles a lot with her mother’s authority, which I could really relate to. That feeling that your parent thinks they know what’s best, even though they might be taking away something that’s good for you, is something I think all teens really experience. 

Plus, Acevedo’s writing is just amazing. I love the way she uses the words, varies her sentences, pulls you in with the rhythm and story and buildup and titles. It’s just very emotional, especially when you get to the second half of the book. 

I’m not ashamed to say that I totally cried while reading the second half, especially during the parts between Xiomara and her mom. Those were just so moving and it’s what bumped this up from my initial 4. 

It was so hard-hitting by the end of the novel and I’m just blown away by all the expert use of words to not only make a well-constructed (and not trashy-like poetry) narrative, but a relatable one too.

If you haven’t read a book in verse before, I think you should definitely check out these verse novels as they are almost always such evocative reads that really pull at your emotions. That’s a huge benefit of reading The Poet X and I think the verse-structure really helped the narrative. 

Plus, Xiomara finds solace in spoken word poetry, and I think there’s obviously a strong correlation there as well as that between Acevedo herself (who does spoken word poetry) and Xiomara. 

Similarly, I loved reading about Xiomara and her relationship with her culture and religion and found this to be really profound. Not only do we let more teens feel represented by these stories, but it also just makes the book so much more rich. 

(Also, I totally admit how when I got to a full-Spanish poem, I went and sat there and translated it in my head using my Spanish IV Honors skills, and then turned the page to find the English translation. *facepalm* But my translation was pretty good, and reading it in Spanish was definitely meaningful.)

Overall, I totally loved The Poet X and can see how it won the National Book Award! Profound and relatable and well-written, this is a novel that will blow you away and make anyone from any walk of life relate to Xiomara’s story. 

Have you read The Poet X? What did you think? 

16 thoughts on “The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: A Lyrical, Impactful Debut

  1. This was one of my favorite books I read this year. It’s been so long since I connected with a character like I did with Xiomara and her story. I read this twice and sobbed both times. Every award Elizabeth Acevedo receives because of this book is so well deserved. This was such a great and thoughtful review, Vicky! 😊

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  2. This is a wonderful review, Vicky, I am so happy to hear you enjoyed this book so much! I never tried books in verse, as I am very nervous not to be able to get into them, but The Poet X sounds quite incredible, I’ll have to give it a try! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you so much, Marie!!! you should definitely try books in verse–they can add a lot of emotion! if you do end up liking this, you might want to take a peek at Blood Water Paint, as well!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! It took me like a month to be able to find all the words to do this book justice (which I ultimately think I failed at because nothing could do this justice). I’m sooo glad you loved reading!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So happy to hear you loved this one, Vicky! I have been wanting to read it so badly but I don’t have a copy just yet. I’m always up for lyrical books but the fact that this one really explores family relationships makes me so much more excited to dive in. 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This book sounds so good, and I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’ve never read a book in verse, but I have listened to some spoken word poetry lately and I’ve loved what I heard. Will have to read this soon, thank you for sharing! 🙂

    claire @ clairefy

    Liked by 1 person

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