August 11, 2021 7:34 AM EDT

Emoni Santiago had a baby when she was a freshman in high school. Now, entering her senior year, she’s balancing her responsibilities as a young mother with her dreams of becoming a chef. Emoni’s story is not a cautionary tale. She’s a brilliant, talented Afro-Latinx woman who manages to pursue her passion while lovingly caring for her daughter. Elizabeth Acevedo, whose debut novel The Poet X became a National Book Award winner, deftly rebukes the cliche of the tragic teen mother, and does young readers a great service by dismantling multiple stereotypes related to race, class and gender over the course of a single book. She also uses food to explore Emoni’s mixed Afro-Puerto Rican and African American heritage. —Shay Maunz

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