The Poet X was a surprise.
I’m not usually a poetry reader, and I wasn’t sure a story told entirely through poems could work, but here it did. Not every poem was memorable in its own right, but as a whole, this book certainly was.
This book follows Xiomara Batista, a Dominican-American girl who is finding herself through poetry in a difficult moment of her life. Her mother is religious and strict, but Xiomara is doubting her faith, her place in the world, and definitely isn’t ready for confirmation. She wants to date, she doesn’t want to be treated unfairly by her family just because she is a girl, she doesn’t want her brother to be in danger just because he’s gay – she writes all of this in her poems, in English, and sometimes in Spanish.
This book managed to develop a really interesting main character and many side characters just through poems, with the littlest amount of words necessary. My favorite poems were those about the teacher Ms Galiano and Xiomara’s best friend Caridad. The Caridad and I Shouldn’t Be Friends poem made me tear up.
Another really interesting part was the exploration of faith and what it means to not believe when you are in a religious family/environment. I haven’t read many books that dealt with this, but I have been in a situation similar to Xiomara’s, and all of this felt almost too close to me. I’m not used to books that deal with this kind of topic; maybe it’s not the Average American experience? I don’t know.
(I do know that most Americans did not grow up in a mostly-Catholic place, but it’s not like religion isn’t a thing for the average white American, so why do books almost never deal with that?)
There was one point in which the story wasn’t as interesting (I’m really not a romance person, so all the poems about Xiomara’s crush weren’t my thing), but I loved this book and its characters.
My rating: ★★★★½