Clap When You Land

I love Elizabeth Acevedo’s work immensely, so as soon as I found out that another book was on the way from and that it was in verse, dealt with grief and had amazing representation, I knew I needed it in my life. Happily, Lizz Skelly and Bonnier Books granted my wish, sending me a stunning hardback proof.

Synopsis:

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TW: death, grief, sexual harassment, attempted sexual assault 

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, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.

My Thoughts:

Clap When You Land shows a master of the form at work, with a nuanced and brilliant examination of race, class, sexuality and grief. It has stuck with me, ingraining itself into my consciousness and leaving me unable to forget Camino and Yahaira’s stories. To me, that’s the mark of a phenomenal book.

I’ve spoken before about the innate emotional intensity that verse holds and I think it’s important to revisit that when considering this stunning example. the sparsity of language means that every word is precisely selected to produce maximum effect and Acevedo capitalises on this, welding her verse like a weapon in order to produce the maximum emotional effect on the reader. Every page brims over with the character’s emotion, it infuses every word, creating a powerful, unique reading experience. Her use of structure, with the opposing voices that occasionally intertwine, really helps to shape the characters and give them running motifs that represent themselves perfectly.

Of course, it helps that we have two distinctive voices in the shapes of Camino and Yahaira. they are both so relatable and easy to connect to, their characters being fleshed out in just a few words but feeling so rich and real. After a while, you no longer need to check who is speaking, as their voices become so familiar, it’s as though you’re talking to an old friend. There’s some impressive character development, as they learn from one another and mutually grow, allowing for a hopeful ending to a bittersweet story tinged with sadness. After all, they are brought together by blood and tragedy, but emerge bonded by so much more. I also loved the relationship between Dre and Yahaira, which felt so natural and easy. Love bloomed from the pages they shared and cast a warm glow over darker aspects of the story.

I really liked how Acevedo explored the raw experience of grief and the differing reactions people have to it. She weaves a rich tapestry that combines individual and cultural differences, but it reflects my own in such an inexplicably perfect way. It permeates every aspect of your life and is a burden you learn to adapt to live with, not an easily solved puzzle. Acevedo just gets this and I will treasure this book forever because of that.

8 thoughts on “Clap When You Land

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