I am a sucker for narrative books in verse, and the newest addition to my collection, The Poet X, is a powerful one. Written by slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo, it tells the story of Xiomara, a girl who initially keeps her words to herself. Xiomara survives by using her fists, against boys who would harass her and to defend her closeted twin brother. However, the true conflict of the book is not so easily dispelled. Xiomara lives in the shadow of her strict mother, whose religious beliefs stifle her tough daughter. Full of doubts, but unable to find the words, she acts out both at church and in the neighbourhood. Eventually, spoken word poetry gives Xiomara a voice she didn't know she had, and leads her on the road to reconciliation and freedom.
I love this book for the poetic writing. The imagery in it is beautiful and really showcases the vibrant emotions that Xiomara feels, but so often keeps hidden. Although quiet, Xiomara has an inner strength, as she stands against sexual harassment by classmates and defies her mother's views of sin. The character illustrates how hard it can be for teenage girls, as they must face everyone else's expectations while still standing their ground and being themselves.
Acevedo includes other subplots that also add interest, even if they are not fully developed. For instance, Xiomara's twin brother Xaviar is struggling with his own relationship with a boy from school and the possible danger of his parents finding out. This storyline is only in the background and not fully resolved, but the book isn't about him. I appreciate how his struggles further highlight the difficulties the twins have growing up with their domineering mother.
I would recommend this book for high school students, and some mature middle years students (as there are some scenes involving her sexual awakening that may be less appropriate for a younger crowd). It is an excellent story with a strong Latina protagonist.