Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (a review)
Updated: Sep 4
Genre: YA Contemporary (Poetry)
Length: 417 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Yahaira is a girl growing up in the United States. Camino is a girl growing up in the Dominican Republic. Neither girl knows of the other's existence until a tragedy brings them together; the death of their father.
The two main characters are half-sisters Yahaira and Camino.
Yahaira is, by her own admission, a girl who is good at most things but doesn't necessarily stand out. The one thing she does excel at is chess (which her father taught her). Despite having never been the the D.R., she is a proud Afro-Latina. Despite never making a spectacle of coming out, all who really know her know that she and her best friend are girlfriends.
Camino is a girl who lives with her aunt and helps her in tending to patients. She dreams of going into the medical field when she's older and wants to go to college in the States. She's loved the ocean since being taught to swim by her father.
The novel is told from the perspectives of Yahaira and Camino and is written in verse (poems). Acevedo is a master with prose and a magician with metaphors. While Acevedo is a talented writer regardless of her chosen style, she truly shines when writing in verse. I personally listened to the audiobook while following along with a physical copy. I definitely recommend going the audiobook route if you can. Acevedo herself is one of the two narrators, and both have wonderful cadence and flow.
While over 400 pages, by nature of being written in verse the novel/audiobook is a quick read/listen. That being said, (most) things never felt rushed. Plenty of time was devoted to establishing the girls and their lives and relationships with their father. One minor complaint I had was that the girls don't actually "meet" (via facetime) until page 275 (or 66% of the way into the novel).
Final Thoughts: As someone who has had the unfortunate experience of losing someone I dearly loved a few years ago, this novel felt like it understood me. Grief is a raw, consuming beast that leaves you feeling hollow and with questions you will never have answered. However, it can also be a complicated thing because people themselves are complicated. This novel is an exploration of grief, but has a hopeful ending. It is tragic and beautiful. I do want to note that if you are triggered by stalking, sexual assault and/or sexual harassment then please approach this novel cautiously. I would probably deem this my favorite of Acevedo's three novels to date.
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