The heat is on in With the Fire on High

Books revolving around food are always a pleasure on their own, if you like cooking. With the Fire on High sets a new bar though, with its slow yet comfortable pace and characters.

There was a time that I could count the amount of strong female characters that were still relatable on one hand. Nerdy Hermione Granger, rebellious Calpurnia Tate, enchanting Vianne Rocher, and hell even though I’m wrecking my brain I can think of very little others. There seems to have been a time that if there was a strong heroine, she was rarely a stand-alone character and she had to be so perfect I couldn’t relate to her at all. Those times are – finally – changing. Books and writers open new worlds in which minorities, as well as (young) women can finally show them that even though they are scared they can be strong and change the world. With the Fire on High shows that strength and resilience, shows a real girl in a real world.


Food plays a vital role in With the Fire on High, and the book follows the pace of the cook: the best food isn’t made while in a rush. Comfort food, seeing the ingredients come together to a heartwarming meal, is a slow process. Emoni’s tale isn’t written in a fast pace and it isn’t filled with dramatic scenes, and that’s what makes it relatable. What makes it real. And what makes it addictive. Because you can relate to the main character you want to keep reading, want to know what she’s going to do next. Emoni teaches you that life is filled with thousands of crossroads, and the only thing that isn’t an option is standing still.

With the Fire on High is a newborn classic in the coming-of-age genre of literature, with a new type of heroine: the teenager with a dream, reinvented.

With the Fire on High

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

With the Fire on High. Elizabeth Acevedo / Harperteen

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