“The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo: A Discussion Guide for Writers

 

Discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

In Elizabeth Acevedo’s young adult novel in verse, The Poet X, Xiomara is struggling to find her voice in her home, in school, and in a community that offers up shame, guilt, and punishment in heavy doses.

The Poet X.png

By studying Acevedo’s novel, writers can recognize that a main character’s name, physical description, and siblings can serve as key components in a story. Acevedo’s novel can be used to explore how the shape and phrasing of words can allow for breath and pause in a story that can convey emotion and tension. Acevedo’s work is also an excellent mentor text on how to use a supporting cast of characters to guide a main character to a solution without allowing the supporting characters to become the solution.

Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate The Poet X.As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Acevedo’s methods.

These discussion questions were inspired by the KidLit Book Club meeting at The Writers’ Loft. We’d love to have you join us. Check out the Loft calendar to find out about our next meeting!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Acevedo’s novel is told in verse. Consider how the choice to tell Xiomara’s story using poetry as opposed to prose benefits the novel. Is your manuscript prose or poetry? Would you story benefit from a switch?
  2. Compare the poetry of Lita Judge’s Mary’s Monster and Acevedo’s Poet X. How will young adult readers react to Judge and Acevedo’s work? How will readers respond to modern novels in verse as opposed to Shakespeare?
  3. How does a novel in verse give the words room to breathe? Consider the physical formatting and spacing of the poetry. How does it help convey the emotion of the scene and the main character’s feelings? Does your own novel leave room for the reader to feel emotion? Is this easier to achieve with poetry rather than prose?
  4. Acevedo’s novel explores the theme of voice. How does she convey Xiomara’s struggle to find her own voice, and how does the Poetry Club become a pivotal plot point? What theme is your manuscript exploring? What plot points are helping to convey that theme?
  5. At its heart, The Poet X is a novel about teenage rebellion against strict parents and a coming-of-age story. While this is a common theme in YA novels, how did Acevedo find a fresh take on this plot? How is Xiomara’s story current and relevant? Does your manuscript feature a common plot with a fresh twist? Is it current? Relevant?
  6. The Poet X looks at religion, family values, and sexuality. How does Xiomara’s struggle to find a balance between her own values, her mother’s values, the teaching of her religion, and the expectations of her peer group create tension in the story? Does your novel consider all the different opinions your characters must juggle? How can you use external and internal pressures to ramp up the tension in your story?
  7. Consider how Xiomara’s body type matters and how her clothing choices convey her feelings about herself and are an indication of her confidence. Would the story have been different if she was less voluptuous? Did you make a conscious decision when you decided what your main character looked like? Dressed like? How can those elements become significant to your story?
  8. How does Acevedo handle bilingual phrases? Does she offer a reader who does not speak Spanish enough context clues? How do you balance staying true to the language of your character and your character’s family, while making sure the reader understands your story? Is it okay to expect your reader to consult outside sources?
  9. How does the decision to give Xiomara a twin benefit the story? How would the story have been different if Twin were a girl? When you decide to give your main character siblings, do you consider how the gender and birth order could benefit your story?
  10. A teacher and a priest become key characters who guide Xiomara and her family to solutions. How does Acevedo use these characters but still keep the main character in charge? Do you use helpers in your novel? How do you make sure they aid in finding a solution but don’t become the solution?
  11. Choosing a main character’s name can be a fun exercise for a writer. How do the name Xiomara and the nickname X become more than just a name? Does your main character’s name help tell your story like Xiomara’s name does?

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