Skip to main content

Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Publisher: Egmont (1 May 2018)
Genre: YA/Literature & Fiction
Price: Rs. 359 on Amazon
Pages: 320

As an avid reader, it is very important for me to start the year with the right book. Books and stories affect my mind and I wanted the year to start off with a healthy, positive book. I do a lot of research on the book that I would read first at the start of a new year. This year was no less. I go through ample book reviews, check out award winning books, see what my fellow bloggers and bookstagrammers have recommended and then come to a decision about the book. Last year I went with 'The Dutch House' and this year I chose to go with 'The Poet X'. The Poet X is a much loved book and I had never read anything by the author so far. Shalini has been praising this book and as someone who trusts her reviews and choices, I knew I was making the right choice.

Our Poet X here is Xiomara (see-oh-mah-ruh) Batista who lives in Harlem with her devout mother and her twin brother, Xavier. As she grows up and her body changes, X is very conscious of how people look at her. Thanks to her heavy breasts, she sees everyone eyeing her and thinks that she is to blame. Mainly because her mother has taught her that a woman's body is her curse. As someone who questions the thoughts of God, X is trying to find herself amidst sexual harassments, prejudice and the onset of love. Or something that feels like that at least. She goes through a complex range of emotions; hurt, shame, desire, fear, doubt, anger, pain, confusion and pleasure. She's still unsure of what is what and what to make of what.

X loves words and hides them in her notebook. In a world coaxing her into silence, she refuses to shut up. When her words turn into poetry, she uses it as a means to understand her family and the world around her. Raw, honest and fierce, her words that cannot be said out loud, make it to her notebook. When her teacher invites her to join the school's slam poetry club, X is unsure at first, but then finds it to be the only outlet for her to actually express what she feels. She goes ahead with full gusto, hiding it from her mother and the priest of the church, because no matter what their expectations of how a woman must be, X is here to write the story of her life. One word at a time.

I read this book in two sittings as once I had started it, I just couldn't put it down. The whole story is in the slam poetry format, with unrhyming sentences that hits you so hard. It is hard to imagine an entire story narrated in the form of poetry, but the author aces it with hard hitting sentences that paint a bleeding yet beautiful picture in your head. The clutches of the smothering family, the judgmental uncaring society, the haunting prejudice in being born a woman, the story navigates through it all using poetry. Even the way relationships are explained via poetry is simply top-class. For a book that celebrates poetry, I of course have a poem of my own dedicated to it.

The three most dreaded words
"It's A Girl", no less than a curse
It wasn't your choice to be born
Yet the effects are adverse

Fellow sisters and mothers go through it
Still, they stay mute and don't stand up for you
Women aid patriarchy in more ways than one
Unfortunately, this is nothing new

Your thoughts, ambitions and your body
Apparently they are a punishment
The same things in a man
Is celebrated as an achievement

If you bleed, you are impure
Yet you must bear a child
You should stay invisible and absent
Else you are blamed for men gone wild

Don't laugh, don't dream, cross your legs
You are either too much or too less
Who you are is only measured
By the length of your dress

You are blamed in mythology and wars
A temptation, that's all you are
Who cares if you become the President tomorrow
Who cares if you can go more far

Facing horror in the name of honor
Here you are, the unfair sex
Fighting it one word at a time
You must learn that from The Poet X

I have nothing else to say at this moment except this, this is the first book that I read this year and this will mostly be my favorite read of the year and also one of my favorites of all time.

Verdict: Just go for it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.