Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (432 pages)
Clap When You Land Begins With Two Teens In Different Countries
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. She attends a school her father pays for, and loves to visit the beach, but recent trips have been plagued by a neighbourhood man who stalks her on her visits to the ocean. In New York City, Yahaira Rios has always looked up to her dad—he’s the one who taught her how to play chess when she was little. But she hasn’t played in a year, since she accidentally uncovered her father’s secret marriage to a woman in the Dominican Republic. As Camino arrives at the airport to pick up her father, finding crowds of crying people, Yahaira is called to the principal’s office in the States, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father’s plane crashed into the ocean. Both girls face a new reality as they navigate their grief and discover their father’s secrets.
An Engrossing Look At Grief, Family, And Forgiveness
While Camino’s life in the Dominican Republic and Yahaira’s life in New York City are different, their grief is the same when they learn of their father’s passing at the beginning of this novel-in-verse. I’ll admit I was wary, even intimidated by reading a novel-in-verse as it’s outside the norm for me, so it took me a while to actually pick this one up. When I did, I initially struggled with the rhythm of it. It didn’t come naturally to me, but by the end, I was flying through it, riding on the strength of the story and my desire to know what happened to Camino and Yahaira. Both girls were fascinating to read as their characters fully-fledged from the moment the book began. And I’m thrilled that I won’t be shying away from novels-in-verse in the future.
As their father’s secrets unravel, Camino and Yahaira’s lives twist closer and closer together. I knew (or at least figured) that they’d have to meet eventually, and reading to that point felt like walking on eggshells. I was afraid that when they met, the tension of the story would be lost, but I carried that fear for nothing as when that moment came, their dynamic drove the story forward. Also, I appreciate that there was never a comparison of pain between Camino and Yahaira. While their lives were in obvious comparison throughout the story, their emotions and especially their grief, never were. Plus it’s what they have in common that’s important—not only the pain of losing their beloved father, but the contrasting blossom of joy at discovering a new family.
The Bottom Line: 5/5 Brookie Stars
Clap When You Land is carefully crafted, with every word poignant and in its place. It’s an enthralling look at two teens whose lives are different, yet they’re experiencing the same tragedy and pain. Read this one if you love novels-in-verse, tough tales about family and forgiveness, and emotional, in-depth character journeys.
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Jamie Mitchell is a writer, library assistant, former bookseller, and all-around lover of the written word. She’s currently working on her fifth novel, and if you’re wondering where the other four are, they’re safe on her laptop and in need of rewriting. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, and enjoys traveling, bookstagramming and experimenting with gluten-free flours.
Favourite book: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Favourite brunch spot: 1823 Bakehouse