The Poet X

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Written by Elizabeth Acevedo

“My brother says I don’t talk enough so he hoped this notebook would give me a place to put my thoughts. Every now and then, I dress my thoughts in the clothing of a poem. Try to figure out if my world changes once I set down these words.

“This was the first time someone gave me a place to collect my thoughts. In some ways, it seemed like he was saying that my thoughts were important. From that day forward I’ve written every single day. Sometimes it seems like writing is the only way I keep from hurting.”

Xiomara’s deeply religious mother has raised her and her twin brother in the church and has strict family rules, but Xiomara has developed many doubts and questions about the faith so central to her family. Further complicating things is her growing crush on her biology lab partner, as well as the after-school spoken word poetry club her English teacher keeps inviting her to join that occurs at the same exact time as the Confirmation class she is required to attend by her mother. She also deals with pervasive sexual harassment and assault from boys and men pretty much wherever she goes, as described in the poem “After:”

After - Poem Snapshot from The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

She does not feel she has any place to give voice to her questions, ideas, and feelings, except through the poems in her notebook. Can she find a way to speak her truths out loud?

Reading the personal narrative poems that make up The Poet X, I felt that I was in fact reading through Xiomara’s actual notebook, rather than reading a narrative written by an adult poet/novelist about a teenager. Acevedo has done an amazing job of bringing this character’s voice to life entirely through her poems. Many of the poems are powerful stand-out pieces on their own, but taken as a whole they create an extremely readable narrative.

Told through powerful and often confessional poems, this is an earnest narrative of a teenager exploring, questioning, and coming to terms with her family, faith, friendships, sexuality, talents, and interests, and ultimately finding purpose through writing and speaking unguardedly about all of these issues. She gives refreshing voice to thoughts and questions that I know I had as a teenager, and that likely most teenagers have. Recommended for pretty much any teen readers (including boys) who like contemporary stories or are likewise figuring these things out, as well as adults who have teens in their lives or were once teenagers themselves.

Review by Joshua Whiting, Library Media Program, Educational Technology Dept.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 9+

The Poet X
Written by Elizabeth Acevedo
HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
361 pages
Release Date: March 6, 2018

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