Published: March 2018 by HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporay/Poetry
Length: 3 Hours/368 Pages
My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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. But she still 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.
In this we meet Xiomara. She’s on the cusp of 16 and lives in a very religious household. When she starts questioning her faith and experiencing new feelings, she turns to writing and gets all of her feelings out in her notebook.
This book is set out as her journal. We’re reading Xiomara’s words. She writes in verse so structurally this book is very different to any other novel I have read. I was a bit weary about that so I ended up listening to the first half as an audiobook.
It’s not very often I choose to listen to the audiobook rather than read a physical copy, but for this book I don’t know if I would love it as much as I do had it not been for the narrator, who is the author herself. She really brought the character to life for me and captured every single emotion perfectly.
Whilst not all of us can relate to what it’s like growing up in a conservative, religious, Dominican household, some of Xiomara’s experiences are very much universal. One of them being the boys (I refuse to call them men) who taunt her as she walks past. Cat calls and wandering eyes is something most women will experience and I felt like Xiomara was reading my mind as she wrote about it.
Writing has power because it tells stories. Because when you connect with a book or a poem you realise you’re not alone in this world. For a while Xiomara writes for herself. Because she needs to get these confusing feelings and thoughts down on page to try and make sense of them. But when her teacher entices her into joining poetry club she finds her voice. And suddenly she is powerful. Suddenly people listen to her words. And she feels like they matter.
Read her words. Listen to her words. Either way, you need this story in your life.
Thanks for reading,