Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Xiomara is the titular The Poet X who learns to find her voice in the pages of her journal, hidden from the world. Her passion and frustration grows in the pages of her notebook, reciting stories that must never leave the pages the ink drys on. But when she’s invited to her school’s slam poetry club, Xiomara decides to speak up in a world that doesn’t want to hear from her.
The Poet X follows Xiomara’s life as she tackles a world that works not in her favour. A world that doesn’t want to hear from her. The story tackles and addresses so many important topics. One of the main issues is sexual harassment and how victims of it are affected, especially from a young age like Xiomara. Another is how Xiomara grapples with living in a conservative household with religious parents. We follow Xiomara as she handles the shame, fear and confusion as she tries to fit in the boxes life had already decided for her.
The Poet X, for me, was a glimpse into the world of slam poetry that I have never encountered before. This has to be one of the best books I’ve read this year. Acevedo doesn’t shy away from anything and shows everything for what it is as we how important the power of words is for Xiomara. Xiomara is strong because the world told her she had to be strong. She’s constantly fighting everything against her. Her parents, school boys and even people on the street who think she’s free real estate. Her words in her journal are where we see her for who she truly is. And there is such powerful growth as she slowly opens up in ways that weren’t permissible to her. She takes chances that were denied to her all her life and finds solace in the poetry club.
Her relationship with everyone is just so complex. Her parents, her brother, her best friend and crush. It all resonated so well with me. The story tackles so much like family, love religion, self-acceptance, sexuality and friendship in its pages, done in verse, that keeps you turning until the very end.
I have never really stepped foot in the world of slam poetry. But this debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo had me completely enthralled. Her voice where she creates Xiomara is ridiculously compelling and utterly powerful. I’ve seen The Poet X mentioned quite a bit in the online book community and I rarely do I find a book that I actually enjoyed from online recommendations. I look forward to seeing more from Acevedo in the future. And I recommend that other readers do too!
Content warnings: bigotry, sexism, sexual assault, parental abuse, emotional abuse, homophobia. (If you’ve read the book and felt like I’ve missed something out, please inform me!)