The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Title: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Series: The Belles, #1
Pages: 440
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: February 6th 2018

      “Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.
      But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.
      With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.”

swirl (2)

“I try not to be the little girl who always jumps as soon as she walks into a room. I try to be the girl who isn’t afraid of anything. Or anyone. But a twinge of fear grows inside me despite myself.”

Dhonielle Clayton paints an enchanting and dark world in her latest novel The Belles. Camellia Beauregard was born a Belle. In a world where beauty has been stripped from its people, Belles are the only ones who can manipulate and transform them into something beautiful. Camellia and her sisters have been training for years for their debut, hoping to be chosen by the queen of Orléans to be the crown’s favorite, the ultimate form of validation for all their hard work. But being the favorite comes with consequences none of the girls could have prepared for and soon Camellia finds herself caught between royals that not only expect her to be the best, but demand it of her. Not obeying has dire consequence for Camellia, her sisters, and the entire kingdom.

Clayton’s writing takes you through a whirlwind of sensations. She captivates readers from the very first page, tapping into each of our senses with such ease. I not only saw Orléans, I felt it, heard it, smelled and tasted it. One of the things I loved about Clayton’s use of beauty is that it is all-encompassing in this world. It isn’t limited to the rich social spheres of Orléans. It is not just the people who must be beautiful, it is the homes, the teahouses, the fashion. Clayton’s descriptions are vivid and delectable; at times, it felt like I was devouring the words instead of reading them. Beauty has become the only way of life for those in Orléans, and for many this has become an obsession. There are some very ugly and terrifying characters in this one who make very chilling villains. They are willing to do anything to be beautiful and to control those who can wield such power. Inevitably, envy and jealousy are byproducts of a world that demands perfection. Though Camellia is the heroine of our story, she is not immune to these more ugly attributes. When one’s value is defined by how beautiful one is, morality takes a back seat and even Camellia find herself giving in when she knows she shouldn’t.

It’s clear from very early on that Camellia and the other Belles have been purposefully isolated from society. There is an undeniable innocence to them and they are told that vices like passion and even love can throw off the balance of their arcana, the essence of which makes them able to work their transformations. Whether this is true or not is yet to be determined, but I could not help but draw a parallel to how we as a society define beauty in girls. From doe-eyed models to lipsticks named Lolita, it sends the message that innocence is alluring and sexy, and any tainting of this especially with sexual experience, poisons the whole apple. This comes to a head when Camellia is attacked by one of her customers later on in the story. There is a particularly unnerving scene where Camellia is tasked with altering a woman’s body and with a writing instrument, marks the places that need to be improved. It was a jarring reminder of the stories I used to hear growing up of girls marking each other’s bodies with permanent marker, circling the parts they viewed as flaws. 

I do wish we had the opportunity to get more acquainted with the other Belles. Though I do understand why they are kept separate from Camellia. Still, we are first introduced to these young women together and though some of them were driven by ambition and others by defiance, they form Camellia’s family and helped her become the person she is. We get a more complete glimpse of Camellia’s relationship with her sister Amber and though I wanted to worry over her like Camellia did, her unquestioned obedience and jealousy didn’t exactly endear her to me. I am much more interested in the rebellious Edel who I hope we get to see more of in the sequel. Another issue I had was the romance. While I can’t complain of the pacing as it feeds into the inexperience of Camellia, I fully admit I wasn’t moved personally by the allure of the love interest. I’ve always preferred the slow burn, so I’m awaiting the development of Camellia’s relationship with someone else.

Clayton’s writing is delicious, her story unique, and her commentary on beauty poignant. If you haven’t picked up The Belles yet, I encourage you to do so.

4/5

★★★★

Advertisements

Mini Reviews: These Ruthless Deeds + These Vengeful Souls

MiniIt doesn’t happen often, but I love when you revisit a book that you didn’t love the first time around, only to discover how enjoyable it is upon a second reading. I reread Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas’s These Vicious Masks a couple of months ago because I had bought the second from Book Outlet and didn’t want to give up on the series even though the first didn’t blow me away. But with a reread, I ended up falling in love with the story and characters. And after finishing the second, I felt the pressing need to buy the third. It only seems appropriate to pair the final two books together in this edition of mini-reviews. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: These Ruthless Deeds
Author: Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Series: The Vicious Masks, #2
Pages: 320
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: March 14th 2017 

      “England, 1883. Still recovering from a devastating loss, Evelyn is determined to use her powers to save other gifted people from those who would harm them. But when her rescue of a young telekinetic girl goes terribly wrong, Evelyn finds herself indebted to a secret society devoted to recruiting and protecting people like Evelyn and her friends.
      As she follows the Society’s orders, healing the sick and embarking on perilous recruitment missions, Evelyn sees her problems disappear. Her reputation is repaired, her friends are provided for, and her parents are newly wealthy. She reunites with the dashing Mr. Kent and recovers the reclusive Mr. Braddock (who has much less to brood over now that the Society can help him to control his dangerous power). But Evelyn can’t help fearing the Society is more sinister than it appears…”

swirl (2)

“Perhaps grief was my companion now, to be dragged behind me as intrusive and burdensome as a heavy trunk.”

I recently revisited Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas’s These Vicious Masks and ended up enjoying their historical fantasy debut so much more the second time around, so much so that I immediately dove into the second installment, These Ruthless Deeds. Upon discovering that she, along with others, are gifted with special abilities, Evelyn Wyndham soon discovered the lengths people will go to to control those with unusual powers. Still reeling from the loss her sister Rose and the disappearance of the enigmatic and alluring Sebastian Braddock, Evelyn throws herself into doing the only thing she is sure of: rescuing others like herself. Her mission leads her to the mysterious Society of Aberrations, a team of gifted individuals who recruit those like Evelyn and help them develop and control their abilities. With new and old friends at her side, Evelyn soon discovers that nobody, including this Society, is what it seems. I love how willful and stubborn Evelyn is. She can’t afford to be easily taken in because of what happened to her sister, but still holds out hope that those like herself can find a place in this world. Sebastian remains one of my favorites in the series. Tormented by his ability to absorb energy from others, causing illness and even death, Sebastian is always trying to outrun himself. The prospect of learning to control his abilities is almost too good to be true, but Sebastian is desperate. I loved every scene with Evelyn and Sebastian. Not only do their powers cancel the other’s out (Evelyn having the ability to heal), but their personalities compliment one another. Evelyn and Sebastian have an undeniable chemistry that had me on the edge of my seat, waiting for them to finally figure things out between the two of them. Another standout character for me is the charming Mr. Kent. I loved all the humor he brought to the story and though I do wish he would have realized sooner that Evelyn only wanted friendship from him, his presence brought much-needed lightheartedness to the novel. These Ruthless Deeds ends with quite a bang which had me scrambling to buy the third. Please note that a character does contemplate suicide in this installment.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: These Vengeful Souls
Author: Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Series: These Vicious Masks, #3
Pages: 304
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: February 20th 2018

      “England, 1883. On the run with the grieving Sebastian Braddock, Evelyn wants two things: to be reunited with her friends, and to get revenge on the evil Captain Goode. Not only has he misused his and Sebastian’s powers to rack up a terrible death toll, but he’s also completely destroyed any hope of Evelyn or her friends regaining the life they once knew.
      Evelyn is determined to make Captain Goode pay for what he’s done, but is her revenge worth risking the lives of Sebastian and her friends? Or is it better to flee the city and focus on staying alive? And with the Captain spreading lies about Sebastian in an attempt to flush them out of hiding and turn the populace against them, does she even have a choice at all?”

swirl (2)

“I felt my head lifted up and my neck bared, somewhere distant between all the pain. Tears streamed down my face and my body twitched uncontrollably. I wondered if this would, at least, put an end to my torture.”

These Vengeful Souls, the final book in Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas’s historical fantasy series, These Vicious Masks, is packed with action as Evelyn and company make one last stand against the nefarious Captain Goode. There’s an added wrinkle in this final book where the public has become aware of individuals with these amazing and dangerous abilities. Goode uses people’s fears to turn them against Sebastian in particular and the handful of allies he has left. Both Evelyn and Sebastian carry loads of guilt; Sebastian because his power was manipulated, resulting in ballroom full of dead people and Evelyn because she had a chance to stop it, but chose to save her sister. Evelyn wants to put an end to the war between Goode and those who no longer wish to be his pawns. Unfortunately, Evelyn is prone to rash decisions, driven by love and a need to protect those around. She often chooses to go in alone rather than put her friends in danger. Despite mistakes Evelyn makes in this one, I loved that she eventually got to a place where she learned to trust those around her to help her in taking down Goode. Seeing Evelyn and minor characters like Rose, Mr. Kent, Miss Chen, etc, come together and work as a team was really rewarding. It’s a testament to their development as characters. I feel like Sebastian never really got a moment to breath throughout this series and I really wanted this for him. It’s hard to blame him for brooding all the time when he never really had much to celebrate. I really wanted to see him get a handle of his powers and in general, I wanted to see more happy moments for all the characters, but that probably says more about my attachment to them than anything else. Overall, this has been a really enjoyable historical fantasy series that I’d recommend to fans of the genre.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

Ruined by Amy Tintera

Title: Ruined
Author: Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined, #1
Pages: 355
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: May 3rd 2016

      “Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.
      But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.
      In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.
      Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.”

swirl (2)

“An elaborate jeweled sword hung on the wall not three steps away, and another one, sheathed and ready to be grabbed, sat on the dresser in the corner. Five seconds to kill the prince. If she hadn’t just saved his life, she might have been tempted.”

With a cast of likable characters and a high-stakes scheme at center stage, Amy Tintera’s Ruined is a delightful fantasy. Emelina Flores watched as her kingdom of Ruina was destroyed and her parents were murdered. In a desperate attempt to save her little sister, the only family she has left, and avenge her kingdom’s destruction, Emelina poses as the last heir to the Vallos throne. As Princess Mary, Emelina will have to marry Cas, the prince of Lera, and fool him as well as the king and queen if she has any hope of finding her sister. Hiding her true identity and her hatred for Lera’s ruler becomes harder with each passing day. While Emelina has always been convinced that the royal family deserves to suffer the same fate as her parents, her conviction begins to waver when she unexpectedly finds a sympathetic ear in her new husband.

Emelina has always stood out her world, just not in the way she would have liked. As a Ruined without magic, Emelina has never been regarded as the heir apparent to Ruina’s throne. Still, Emelina feels a responsibility to her people and her sister Olivia who has been taken captive by the king of Lera. Driven by anger and blood-lust, Emelina risks everything by impersonating the princess of Vallos. Rescuing Olivia and working with another kingdom to overthrow Lera’s king is the only way Emelina can ensure the survival of her people. The strongest influence in Emelina’s life has always been her mother. I loved every glimpse we got of this woman. Wenda Flores was efficient and merciless when it came to ruling. She saw magic not as a gift, but as a symbol that those like her are destined to rule over those without it. Emelina has spent so much time trying to accomplish her mother’s vision of the world that she hasn’t had the opportunity to ask herself what kind of world she wants to live in. Her relationship with Cas has her calling into question who she wants to be and not just what others have told her she must be.

The king and queen of Lera have waged war on the Ruined. In an attempt to snuff them out for good, they make an alliance with Vallos, arranging a marriage between their son and the Vallos princess. Cas is more open than his parents and when Emelina challenges him to think about what his kingdom is really doing to the Ruined, he can’t help but listen. I loved that Cas isn’t the most confident person in the room. He can be shy and awkward, but in this novel it felt like he gained a voice. He was able to stand up to his father and challenge the beliefs he’s been told he needs to just accept. No one’s actions in this novel are entirely justified. Emelina and Cas have both erred, but they also take the first steps to taking control of their own lives instead of letting their parents’ battles dictate who they are going to be.

I was hoping for a little more magic in Amy Tintera’s Ruined or at least a broader look at the kind of magic the Ruined are known for, but the ending opens up so many possibilities that I’m eager to dive into the next book.

4/5

★★★★

ARC Review: Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Title: Bruja Born
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Series: Brooklyn Brujas, #2
Pages: 352
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: June 5th 2018
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, which does not influence my review.**

      “Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.
      Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.
      Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…”

swirl (2)

In Bruja Born, Zoraida Córdova reintroduces readers to the Mortiz sisters and her world of witches. When Alex Mortiz cast a spell to take away her power, she inadvertently sent her entire family to Los Lagos, a dangerous in-between realm. While Alex was able to save her family, she could never foresee just how much her world would change. In Bruja Born, Alex’s older sister Lula takes center stage. While Alex is learning to accept who she is as an encantrix, an all-powerful bruja, Lula is trying to find her way back to who she was before Los Lagos. When Maks, Lula’s boyfriend and the only person who makes her feel normal, is taken from her, Lula does everything she can to bring him back. Unfortunately for Lula, in her quest to save Maks, her actions will disrupt the very balance of life and death, and in the end, Lula will have to decide what she is willing to sacrifice to right her wrongs.

As much as I enjoyed Alex in Labyrinth Lost, I actually think I relate more to Lula. Before I had finished the first chapter, I was fully invested in Lula’s story. There is something incredibly fragile about her, but the strength and determination underneath is never sacrificed for this fragility. Lula was a character flawed from the very beginning. She makes rash decisions because she is a character driven by emotion. Though her journey has her meeting the Lady de la Muerta, the goddess of death, and facing off against zombie-like creatures, ultimately Lula’s story is internal. I don’t want to give too much away but there is one moment at the end where it felt that Lula had finally taken back control of her life and she was able to see how strong and valuable she was. It made me want to cheer out loud. Watching Lula struggle between being the girl she used to be and the one who emerged from Los Lagos is heartbreaking, but in the end, her story manages to be incredibly hopeful.

I want to touch on how much I enjoy the relationship between the Mortiz sisters. At the beginning of the novel, Lula harbors a lot of resentment toward Alex and Alex, who recognizes that Lula has changed, blames herself. Though tension and anger are always present, underneath it all is love. Alex and their younger sister Rose have done their best to take care of their older sister. While the Mortiz household has be disrupted by the return of their missing father, these three have always had each other. In the end, these sisters would do anything for each other and it’s this relationship that is at the heart of this series. I feel like we get to see this even more in this sequel and after getting to know Rose better, I am really looking forward to her novel.

In Bruja Born, the dead live and the living get their hearts carved out, both metaphorically and literally. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the Mortiz sisters and following them on their witchy journey, you’re missing out.

4/5

★★★★

ARC Reviews: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez

Title: Sweet Black Waves
Author: Kristina Pérez
Series: Sweet Black Waves, #1
Pages: 448
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: June 5th 2018
**I received a free eARC of this novel through NetGalley which does not influence my review**

      “Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.
      As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.
      Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.”

swirl (2)

Kristina Pérez’s Sweet Black Waves promised to combine a whirlwind romance and breathtaking magic in her novel inspired by Tristan and Eseult. Unfortunately, the romance was barely tolerable and the magical elements did not come into play until the latter part of the novel, but by this time, I had already lost interest in the characters. As a lady’s maid to the princess of Iveriu, Branwen knows all about duty to the crown and her kingdom. She’s grown up hating Kernyv, a rival kingdom, whose people are responsible for the death of Branwen’s parents. When Branwen saves the life of a mysterious stranger, she has no idea that her one act of kindness will change the course of her life and her kingdom’s.

There are a lot of elements of the novel that should have worked for me, but ultimately didn’t. At the heart of Sweet Black Waves is Branwen’s relationship with her cousin Essy, the princess of Iveriu. Though Branwen’s role is to serve Essy, they have grown up as close as sisters. These two characters could not be more different and while I wanted to appreciate each for their strengths and weakness, there were aspects to both of these characters that I could not stand. Essy has never fully embraced all the responsibilities that come with being the next queen on Iveriu. She is at times frivolous and selfish. I never felt that she fully appreciated Branwen and when it came to Branwen, it felt like she would let Essy get away with everything. For most of the novel, this relationship comes across as very one-sided where Branwen would give and give and Essy would take without a second thought. I really wanted to see these two build one another up and help one another grow because it’s these kind of female relationships that I like seeing.

My least favorite aspect of the novel was the romance. If you hate insta-love, stay far away from this novel. Branwen jumps from hating the mysterious man she rescues because he’s from Kernyv to wondering if he will notice her in a pretty dress after a single encounter. Still, I might have been able to get past this if we as readers had gotten the chance to see these two get to know one another. There is, however, a time jump of “weeks” that prevents this. I really wish I could have gotten to know both characters through these off-the-page interactions and I’m sure I would have been more invested in their relationship as well. Later when the novel hinges on Branwen’s feelings for a Kernyvmen and how she struggles to reconcile this with her duty to her kingdom, it was hard for me to empathize with her sense of longing and anxiousness.

It took far too long for magic to make a concrete appearance in the novel. There is a really interesting religious element to this world that is present throughout. Branwen talks of the Old Ones and the Otherworld; the queen herself has a tie to this other realm that influences how the kingdom interacts with outsiders. I found this really interesting and wished the novel had delved in deeper and sooner. By the time Branwen discovers that she may have abilities that far exceed the healing skills her aunt has taught her, I had already lost interest in the novel. In the end, not even the twist could elicit any kind of emotional response from me, save vague amusement.

1/5

Mini Reviews: The Fifth Season + The Poet X

MiniThis week’s set of mini-reviews are two of the most impressive reads I’ve picked up this year. N.K. Jemisin astounds me with her world-building and Elizabeth Acevedo punched me in the gut with her poetry. If you have not picked up either of these authors, you must do so immediately. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Fifth Season
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Series: The Broken Earth, #1
Pages: 468
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: August 4th 2015 

      “THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS. AGAIN.
      Three terrible things happen in a single day.
      Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
      But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back.
      She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.”

swirl (2)

“You aren’t just inflicting death on your fellow villagers, of course. A bird perched on a nearby fence falls over frozen, too. The grass crisps, the ground grows hard, and the air hisses and howls as moisture and density is snatched from its substance…but no one has ever mourned earthworms.”

N.K. Jemisin’s first novel, The Fifth Season, in The Broken Earth series is an example of masterful and innovative storytelling that spellbinds readers from start to finish. This is the first time that I’ve read a book where a substantial portion of the novel is written in second person. While I wasn’t sure this would work, especially considering the other two perspectives included in the novel are told in third person, I quickly fell in step with this point of view. Jemisin has a way of weaving all three perspectives into one cohestive story that had me wanting to turn back to the beginning and experience the whole thing over again. Jemisin’s world is complex and I’m in awe of how much information she is able to provide the reader in this first book without it feeling overwhelming. Essun is the first character we are introduced to and we’re immediately put in her shoes as a mother who has just discovered her child has been killed. The young Damaya offers a more naive perspective and through her chapters, her and readers’ disillusionment about the world is shattered. Syenite puts readers right in the middle of a powerful, but troubling institution and it is here where readers learn the full scope of terror for people living in this world. I loved how there are different types of people and beings (for lack of a better term) in this world that all have distinct functions and whose relationships with one another help shape this world. The Fifth Season launches readers into a world that is both fascinating and frightening with characters that are impossible to forget. Special shout out to Annemieke @ A Dance With Books for the great buddy read.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Series: N/A
Pages: 357
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 6th 2018

      “A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
      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, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she 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.”

swirl (2)

“Late into the night I write and
the pages of my notebook swell
from all the words I’ve pressed onto them.
It almost feels like
the more I bruise the page
the quicker something inside me heals.”

Elizabeth Acevedo stuns with her debut novel The Poet X. Xiomara is easily one of the most relatable protagonists I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. For fifteen-year old Xiomara, having strangers and most especially men, draw conclusions about her based on her body is nothing new. She’s developed a thick skin because she knows the only one who will fight for her is herself. Hardly one to express herself openly, Xiomara is just beginning to find her voice in the poetry she writes. Her relationship with her parents is complicated. There is unspoken resentment and anger. Xiomara is trying to discover who she is and what she believes while also trying to please her devout mother. Her father is physically present, but emotionally distant. Her twin, Xavier, whom she’s always been closed to, is slowly pulling away, dealing with his own battles. Acedvedo’s writing is honest and poignant. With each page turned, I grew more and more invested in Xiomara’s story. Her journey to find her voice in a world that wishes to suppress it is both beautiful and devastating. Acevedo’s novel in verse put me through a range of emotions from happiness to heartbreak and in the end left me feeling deeply moved.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★