Book Review: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Goodreads: Clap When You Land
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Published: 05 May 2020
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

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.

Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Yahaira and Camino are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.

In a dual narrative novel in verse that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

TL;DR: If you love stories about sisters, stories that are rich in culture and diversity, stories about grief, loss and identity, and stories that are written with so much heart, then you won’t want to miss Clap When You Land. It’s a beautifully written, touching and emotional journey in verse, and I’m so glad that I finally read this gem of a novel.

Woo, I did not expect this to be so emotionally charged; though I don’t know why since it’s Acevedo and she never fails to sucker punch those feels! It’s a story that’s heavy, heavy, heavy with grief, desperation, longing, and betrayal but also hope and new beginnings. It’s about sisters living two separate and very different lives both grappling with the loss of a father neither knew was a parent to somebody else. Once again, Acevedo treats us to beautiful and evocative prose. There’s nothing flashy about her writing but I continue to be amazed at how she manages to get to the heart of so many feelings and creates such vivid imagery with a few simple words! It’s always a pure delight to read her books and this one was no different. It was also delightful to finally understand why this book was called Clap When You Land and I absolutely loved it!

“How can you lose an entire person, only to gain a part of them back in someone entirely new?”

I read this partially with the audiobook but I decided to stop about 50% of the way through, not because it wasn’t amazing because both narrators did wonderful jobs of bringing these characters to life, but I realised I was focusing more on how the verses were being spoken rather than connecting to the stories. I don’t normally listen to audiobooks so this might just be a ‘me’ thing but I preferred reading the words at my own pace. That said, I think because this was written in verse and it’s not something I’m used to, I feel I wasn’t able to connect with the characters and their story as much as I wanted to (at least initially). I buddy read this with Leslie @ Books Are the New Black and we both felt the same way about this, so maybe it’s just us who didn’t get it cos it wasn’t the book!

Camino and Yahaira are both resilient, fierce and strong young women, and it was easy to empathise with both sisters. There is so much heaviness and heartbreak in this story and oh, how my heart twisted at the thought of losing a loved one only to discover something life-altering as this and wondering at the betrayal knowing that the only person who could’ve given you an answer is no longer alive to give it.

“I am the child my father left her for in the summers. While she is the child my father left me for my entire life.”

Yahaira is the daughter in New York who has lived a pretty good life with her father, mother, uncles and aunties. She’s a chess prodigy, has a supporting and loving mother and girlfriend, and until she learned about one of her father’s secrets, she was Papi’s girl. Her character has the naivete that comes with living a (more) privileged life but I admired her grit and her willingness to accept Camino into her life. Camino is the daughter in the Dominican Republic and her story/perspective hit me the hardest. I loved the way that Acevedo highlighted the different ways that loss can impact people and that it can go beyond just their physical loss. This was especially the case for Camino and it was heartwrenching to understand her desire for a better life and the desperation she felt when she realised that with Papi no longer around, those dreams might no longer be hers to have. It’s a harsh and brutal reality that Camino has to face as she realises she can no longer afford her school’s tuition and that she is no longer protected from the nasty pimp who comes to stalk her every move. I appreciated how the fragility of life in developing countries was shown through Camino’s perspective.

In the end, I honestly wished that the last 20-30% of the book had been given more room to grow because that was the part that bumped my rating up to 4 stars. I loved seeing these sisters come together—it was uncomfortable, it was easy, it was trying but it was also too short. The pace really picked up at this point and it was like I blinked and then their story was done! That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy getting to know the sisters, their lives in New York and DR, and what the loss of their father meant to each of them separately, but I’d have loved to see them in their shared grief and seeing them share what their father meant to each other. I really appreciated the author’s note that talked about the real-life plane crash that inspired her to write this story and to shed light on the impact of that loss on the NY Dominican community. A beautiful, beautiful heartbreaking yet hopeful story and I’m so glad that Acevedo got to share it with the world. ❤️

Have you read Clap When You Land or is it on your TBR?

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

  1. This is a great review, Dini!!! I’ve still been going back and forth between 3.5 and 4 stars. 😂 Like you said, I would have loved to have more to read about them after connecting! Regardless, I’m soooo glad we buddy read it!!! ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmm. So I kind of had an opposite reaction to this one. I listened to the entire thing on audiobook and I’m not typically an audiobook fan either. But it was hearing the lyrical verses that made me love it so much. I didn’t have a print version to try, though. While it was an emotional book, it didn’t come across as excessively heavy for me. BUT I’m also not always the most emotional reader. I think I also prepared myself. I knew it was about a plane crash, so I let myself focus more on the sisters than the tragedy… if that makes sense?? But I’m happy you enjoyed this one overall. It definitely made me want to read more from Acevedo. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I mean, I definitely enjoyed the audiobook but I felt I was focusing too much on how they were speaking the words and less on what they were saying? It’s definitely my head space 😂 I’d love to re-read this with the audiobook at some point! I think I felt it was heavy cos I’m a pretty emotional reader and can cry really easily, haha! 🙈 The feelings of grief and loss just whacked me in the feels! I think if I ever re-read it maybe it won’t be so heavy cos I’ll be able to focus more on different parts of it. I’m definitely keen to read more by Acevedo too!

      Liked by 1 person

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