Review | Clap When You Land

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AUTHOR: Elizabeth Acevedo
GENRE: Contemporary, Verse
RELEASE: May 5, 2020
PUBLISHER: Harper Teen
LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo: 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. 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.

Yahaira and Camino are two teen girls living vastly different lives–Yahaira in New York City, Camino in the Dominican Republic. The two girls have never met and know nothing of each other’s existence, but they share something in common: a father. Camino lives for the summers when her father visits, wishing she could go live with him in NYC; Yahaira spends the summer missing her father while he visits the DR, but knowing he’ll return come fall. When their father dies suddenly in a plane crash, Yahaira and Camino are overcome with grief and devastation. Will discovering each other’s existence break or save them both?

Clap When You Land is just as stunning and moving as Elizabeth Acevedo’s previous novels. Like her debut novel The Poet X, Clap When You Land is a YA contemporary written in verse and showcases Acevedo’s powerful use of voice and structure. The flow of the verses mirror the flow of grief as it surrounds Yahaira and Camino. The verse format makes this a quick read, but the author gives the story the space that it deserves. Themes of sisterhood and the question of what makes someone family run throughout both Yahaira and Camino’s perspectives. I love that this novel deals heavily with reconciling love, loss, and betrayal–and how to move forward when that betrayal comes from someone you never thought would hurt you.

Yahaira and Camino both felt so real and were such distinctly formed characters. Yahaira lives in NYC and has a passion for chess; I didn’t realize there was queer rep in this book and was so pleasantly surprised that Yahaira was queer! I particularly appreciated that her queerness and her girlfriend were not treated as a “problem” of the story. She’s also struggled with feeling like she’s not the daughter her mother wanted, and has been grappling with secrets of her father’s that she discovered a year prior to his death. Meanwhile, Camino is training as a healer with her aunt, while trying to figure out what her future will look like without her father’s support–and trying to protect herself from a very real predator. 

Both girls had such strong, distinctive voices that I loved equally. Their grief was incredibly palpable, and the juxtaposition of their experiences added so much depth to the narrative. Yahaira and Camino both have vastly different relationships with their shared father, and have experienced trauma unique to their circumstances.The supporting characters are just as real and three-dimensional as the two girls–from Camino’s aunt, who fiercely protects her niece and heals those around her, to Yahaira’s girlfriend, who loves to garden and grows lush plants on their fire escape. Like both of Acevedo’s previous novels, Clap When You Land is diverse; in addition to most central characters being Dominican, Yahaira is queer, her girlfriend is Black, and Camino’s best friend is Hatian.

Clap When You Land is a lush, beautifully heartbreaking story of sisterhood, grief, trauma, and hope. Fans of Elizabeth Acevedo’s previous novels, particularly The Poet X, will adore this one. I’ll definitely be purchasing a copy for my own collection, and for my library’s; I’ll be recommending it to teens who like Ibi Zoboi, Akemi Dawn Bowman, Lilliam Rivera, and Dana L. Davis. Readers should be aware that this novel deals heavily with death of a parent and contains scenes of medical treatment/healing, birthing, and mentions of sexual assault & trauma. 

There are infinite great things I could say about Clap When You Land. Both Yahaira and Camino have a voice as striking as that of Xiomara in The Poet X and Emoni in With the Fire on High, but each character takes on her own life. Elizabeth Acevedo has cemented herself even further as a YA powerhouse who will never fail to both break and heal her readers’ hearts all at once. This story of grief and loss will hit home with many readers, and while Yahaira and Camino’s pain can be felt on each page, it is without a doubt a story of hope and forgiveness. It’s about finding out you’re not alone, reaching through your own pain, and allowing yourself to share that space with another.


Thank you to Harper Teen for the free review copy.

Happy reading! Ari

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