Contemporary (Teen)

Review: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

A contemporary story that explores the depth of grief and the revelation of family secrets.

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I usually stay away from contemporary novels, but I’ve been making an active push to read more of them. I am so glad I read this book and all I can do is hope you will read it, too.

Rep: Latinx, LGBTQIA+ 

Trigger warning: grief/death, sexual harassment

Clap When You Land book cover

Clap When You Land

by Elizabeth Acevedo

Published April 5, 2020 by Quill Tree Books
ISBN: 0062882767

Data from Goodreads

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.

My Review: Emotionally Evocative, Raw, and Absolutely Beautiful

Where do I begin with describing this novel? With its poetic writing, Clap When You Land is an evocative journey into the lives of two very different girls, Camino and Yahaira. Two sisters who were unaware of the other’s existence for the last 16 years. It is only through the loss of their father that they finally begin to piece together the truth.

The novel, written in verse form, alternates between Yahaira and Camino. Readers are able to understand how grief has transformed each sister’s life in its unique way. Every word, every description brings up raw emotion that is so tangible for the reader. The connection to the characters is so deep that it becomes impossible to separate one’s own emotions. I felt their grief, I felt their loss, I felt their anger, and their longing for the truth. As both sisters circled closer and closer to each other, I was holding my breath and shaking in anticipation.

Clap When You Land presents the concept of grief as both a simple and complex phenomenon. In its simplest form, it is that ache that both girls feel, that loss of something within them that they can never get back. Regardless of their circumstances, this is something that both girls shared: they both lost their loving father.

But the author also masterfully shows grief bringing along with it complex emotions. For Camino, her father’s death also means the loss of her protector and the means to her dreams. We see her worry about her future, about her safety; we can see this anxiety bubbling within her, as she tries to use logic to come up with a solution. For Yahaira, her father’s death is mixed with feelings of guilt and betrayal, for the secret she unearthed a year ago and her inability to confront him about it; she must now reconcile her unresolved feelings of her father’s treachery.

The discovery of each other’s existence serves to add one more layer of complexity to their ordeal. Their memories of their loving father are not what they seem; here is proof that he has a selfish side. And this revelation goes beyond their father – now they must consider what it means to have a sister. How will their own relationship take form? While they both can see the grief mirrored in the other’s eyes, how will they deal with their conflicting feelings of anger and guilt?

The premise of this novel has always seemed complicated. However, the author has written a gut-wrenchingly beautiful story that allows the reader to explore the perspectives of both sisters – and connect with it on a deep level.

There are so many other themes that this novel gently brings up. It brings up questions on identity, on belongingness, on entitlement, and family. It talks about how easily tragedy can be dismissed, even as communities struggle to make sense of it. Lastly, it speaks about relationships and the comfort it can bring during times of hardship.

It has taken me a few days to write this review, and even then, I don’t feel I’ve done the book justice. I just hope that you will all give it a chance and enjoy it as much as I did.

4 thoughts on “Review: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

  1. With Elizabeth Acevedo narrating part of this one as well, I can’t wait to check out the audio book. I read The Poet X that way and her narration just made the story come alive in a way that stuck in your gut.

    1. I really hope you enjoy the audiobook! Poet X was such a great read for me so I was very eager to read more by Elizabeth Acevedo. I’m just glad it ended up being so good!

    1. I read Poet X and fell in love with the way the author writes – it is just so powerful and heartfelt! I’m looking forward to reading more of her work!

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