By Violet Henderson and Mary Fahrenbruck, New Mexico State University
Mary and Violet continue to provide their takes on the 2019 Pura Belpré award winners and honor books. This week, they look at The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. This book is Acevedo’s debut novel and won the Pura Belpré Author Award for 2019.
MARY: Written in free verse, The Poet X flows seamlessly from line to line, verse to verse and poem to poem. From a reviewer’s stance, I am impressed with the way Acevedo packs so much emotion into the short verses of each poem. The narrative provides just enough of the story line so that readers can vividly imagine what is left unsaid.
From a reader’s stance, I immediately dropped down into the pages of Acevedo’s coming-of-age novel. I connect with Xiomara in so many ways–relationships with friends and family, religious affiliation and physical development. I’m sure adolescent readers will also connect and empathize with Xiomara as they see scenes of their own lives mirrored in this novel.
VIOLET: You are so right about the emotion that flows through the pages and how it is relatable on so many levels. Acevedo explores many critical issues that teenage girls face through Xiomara. This 15-year-old heroine is attempting to resolve the dissonance in her life and find a platform for her voice. I am awed by her strength and her ability to identify, examine and question the structures of power that impact her. As you mentioned her physical development, she tries to come to terms with her body and how her body is perceived within her environment. She describes the type of attention she receives from boys and men of all ages. She is well aware of this attention, and, I am inferring, she views her physical development as a burden. What a heavy emotional and psychological load to endure at such a young age. However, this is where her irrepressible nature resonates. We see this as she navigates through situations in her home life, school life and within her community.
MARY: As an avid reader of YA lit, I could almost predict the tensions that Xiomara would experience throughout the story. Acevedo’s novel fits nicely within a Coming-of Age text set for adolescent readers. I must say though, that I could never have predicted what Xiomara did with the communion host. I had to reread that scene just to make sure I had read it correctly! I wonder if that scene will affect adolescent readers in the same way it affected me.
VIOLET: This was such a strong message in her quest to realizing her identity and solidifying her views about the world. The poems themselves are not only filled with emotion, and how Acevedo chooses to represent each poem and situate the words throughout the page adds a visual element to that feeling.
I hope by providing our take on The Poet X, WOW readers will pick up this book very soon and find a corner in which to curl up. I am sure they will connect with Xiomara on many levels. WOW readers will cheer for her as they feel her joys and pain. I hope they delight in the journey!
Awards: Pura Belpré Author Award, the National Book Award and the Golden Kite Honor Award
Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Date Published: March 6, 2018
Throughout May 2019, Mary and Violet give their takes on the 2019 Pura Belpré award winners and honor books. In their first installment, Mary and Violet discuss Islandborn authored by Junot Díaz and illustrated by Leo Espinoza. The picturebook won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Award for 2019.Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!