Book Review

Clap When You Land

Clap When You Land

  • Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Genre: YA Contemporary, Multicultural
  • Publication Date: May 5, 2020
  • Publisher: Hot Key Books

TRIGGER WARNING: plane crash, off-page death of a parent, sexual assault

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. 

In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

I’ve never read a novel in verse, and it was absolutely beautiful. It’s more like a poem, but in book form. I loved the way the story was written, and for some reason, the verse format made the story seem even more impactful than it may have if I was just going by content. The only thing I didn’t love about it, was that the chapters had a lot of breaks, and at times, I would get lost as to who was speaking.

Chapters vacillate between Camino’s and Yahaira’s POV. The voice seemed very similar between the two, and it was easier to differentiate based on context. Camino is a simple country girl; she lives with her aunt, who works as a local healer, and Camino aspires to be a doctor. She faces her share of difficulty; her family borders on poverty, as do most of the people in their area, and she’s seen her share of death, mainly from lack of access to healthcare.

“So, when I say I want to be a doctor, I know exactly what that means. This curing is in my blood. & everyone here knows the most respected medical schools are in the United States.”

Yahaira, on the other hand, lives a life that’s about as detached as you could get from Camino’s. She’s privileged (compared to her half-sister), and hasn’t quite found her passion the way Camino has. She is also a lesbian, but isn’t open about it in all areas of her life.

“I am a rule follower. A person whose report card always says Meets Expectations. I do not exceed them. I do not do poorly. I arrive & mind my business.”

However different the two girls are, they share a cultural upbringing, and even though they haven’t been aware of it, a father. With the plane crash, a lot comes to light, and they have to readjust to their new reality.

“& I don’t know how one man can be so many different things to the people he was closest to.” — Yahaira

“But me, I know a man can have many faces & speak out of both sides of his mouth; I know a man can make decisions based on the flip of a coin; a man can be real good at long division, give away piece after piece after piece of himself.” — Camino

I absolutely loved the story; the characters were engaging and felt so real, it wasn’t hard to empathize with their struggles. I loved the combination of Spanish and English that was used in the story as well, and the fact that things were defined for those who may not know what the words mean. It touches on the idea of belonging — where home is, especially when you’re the child of immigrants, where you grow up with the culture but haven’t been to the place where you feel is your home.

“Can you claim a home that does not know you, much less claim you as its own?”

More importantly, it addresses issues that we all face: loss, grief, forgiveness, love, and the bonds of family. It’s my second book by Elizabeth Acevedo, and she’s rapidly becoming a favorite author of mine. Read this, and you’ll see why.

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