I almost squealed at work the other day, because we received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, which I immediately took home and started reading. Since this is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
Acevedo goes back to poetry in Clap When You Land, which tells the story of Yahaira, who lives in New York, and Camino, who lives in the Dominican Republic. Neither knows the other exists, until one day, their father is reported dead in a plane crash and they learn about each other. They must deal with their grief and shock at this loss, as well as get their heads around the fact they have a half-sister they never knew of.
I love both the main characters; though they’re similar ages, they have distinct enough voices (though, granted, the chapter headings that say who is speaking does help at first). Both girls are kind and intelligent, yearning to make a good life for themselves. Their friends and family, from Camino’s Tia to Yahaira’s girlfriend Dre, are all wonderful.
At the center of this story, though, is a character we never see in the present: Yahaira and Camino’s father. He is revealed over time to be a deeply complex person—he is a devoted, caring father, but also a problematic human. Acevedo deftly explores the layers of his relationships with his relatives, and though he is dead the entire book, he’s one of the most memorable figures.
In the end, this is a massively powerful book, tackling father/daughter bonds, families, and the mixed emotions that come when grief and betrayal intertwine. Also, this book focuses not only on the girls’ relationship to their father, but also about the strength and importance of friendships and relationships between women. Acevedo has quickly become one of my favorite authors, and she has further cemented this with this book!
Overall rating: 9/10
Clap When You Land will be published in May 2020!
(One content warning I need to mention is that there are a couple of scenes that address sexual assault. They are not explicitly graphic, but don’t shy away from the fear and helplessness that is experienced during those scenes. These scenes are brief, though, and treated with sensitivity and care.)