The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo [in School Library Journal]
That Elizabeth Acevedo narrates her debut novel-in-verse is a sublime gift. She’s undoubtedly the ideal aural arbiter of her spectacular coming-of-age tale about a Harlem teen whose generational, cultural, religious, and emotional conflicts coalesce to teach her “to believe in the power of [her] own words.”
Not yet 16, Xiomara is unlike her brilliant, never-gets-in-trouble twin brother: “He is an award-winning bound book, / Where I am loose and blank pages.” She fills those pages with everything she can’t say, revealing doubts, aches, secrets: “It almost feels like / the more I bruise the page / the quicker something inside me heals.”
She’s not devout like her immigrant mother or her best friend, and she’s hidden her maturing body for years, until that first kiss: “He is not elegant enough for a sonnet / too well-thought-out for a free write, / taking too much space in my thoughts / to ever be a haiku.” Encouraged by her English teacher to claim her voice, Xiomara’s performance of her verses will be “the most freeing experience of [her] life.”
Verdict: Libraries should prepare for eager audiences requesting multiple formats. Patrons who opt for the audiobook can access Acevedo’s additional explanatory track about a final contrapuntal poem.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult