Review: Clap When You Land

Review Clap When You Land

Clap When You Land is the third novel by National Book Award winner Elizabeth Acevedo. Like her others, The Poet X and With The Fire On High, it’s a heartbreakin and heartwarming story featuring Latinx characters.

From the publisher:

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. 

Clap When You Land, like The Poet X, it’s a novel-in-verse. If you’re not used to reading a book that way, it’s a little strange at first. You very quickly grow accustomed to it and even more, you appreciate the way Acevedo uses the structure of the words and placement of the lines on the page to dictate pace and elicit emotion.

As a reader, you know going in that Camino and Yahaira are half-sisters, neither aware of the others’ existence. Acevedo builds great tension in that eventual meeting by contrasting each girl’s life experience and relationship with their father. Many of the advantages Yahaira enjoyed in New York are reflected as deep longings by Camino in the Dominican Republic. While Camino enjoyed an easygoing, loving father (for the few weeks each year he spent in the DR), Yahaira carried the weight of an overbearing, chess- and winning-obsessed father.

When Yahaira and Camino finally meet, all of the advantages and disadvantages of their individual experience are put on full display, leading to the question of whether either will have space in their heart and family for the other.

I appreciated that Acevedo included some LGBTQ+ characters in Clap When You Land. The representation was very matter-of-fact, with some discussion of how their identity is accepted by friends and family. As much as I enjoy stories about LGBTQ+ themes, I also like the growing trend of including LGBTQ+ characters in novels that aren’t primarily about LGBTQ+ issues.

Elizabeth Acevedo is an instant-read author for me, and I highly recommend Clap When You Land.

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