Title: Clap When You Land
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Pub. Date: May 5th 2020
Genre: YA Contemporary/Own Voices
Publisher: HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books
Pages: 432 Pages
🖤ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review🖤
Where to start with what has easily become my favorite read of 2020 thus far? the author writes in her afterward that this story is inspired by the real life events of flight AA587. A flight routinely set from JFK airport to Santo Domingo aka the Dominican Republic. The flight that never made it & crashed in a Queens NY neighborhood was quickly forgotten about. Just two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, news coverage was focused on other potential terrorist threats but the flight AA587 crash was not terrorist related. 260 Souls who were mostly of Dominican descent lost their lives on this flight.
Clap When You Land is about the ties that bind in a family, grief, and the sometimes messy secrets that cannot be kept hidden. Told in dual POV we follow Camino & Yahaira who don’t know about one another’s existence. They share the same father who travels between New York & Santo Domingo throughout the year. His absence is always explained as “business” & each of his daughters look forward to his arrivals after a long stay away. On his way to Santo Domingo to spend time with Camino his flight falls into the ocean taking the lives of everyone on board. The news of his passing makes waves both in NY & in Santo Domingo. Many of the family secrets their dad was keeping could no longer stay buried. Camino & Yahaira find out about each each other. This is the story of how they come together, see pieces of their dad in one another, and work through all of the emotions these truths bring.
Content Warning: Death of a parent, plane crash, heavy grief, attempted rape (not detailed on the page, premature labor, Cancer, Dengue Fever
Camino Rios – Born & raised in Santo Domingo, Camino is described as having her fathers features with her mother’s slightly lighter complexion. Camino is a strong swimmer with a passion for medicine & a dream to one day study in Columbia University. Camino lives with a aunt who is a Curandera (self taught medical healer) & spends her days as an apprentice taking care of the sick in the neighborhood. Their medicine is a mix of natural herbs for home remedies as well as a connection to the Santos. Camino’s aunt is a Santera who has instilled in her love & respect for the saints who open paths & light the way. Camino is a little rough around the edges as a result of where she’s been raised. Camino is my favorite character, she’s been through so much & still manages to have a nurturing touch and soothing presence.
Yahaira Rios – Born & raised in NYC, Yahaira is described as being a mirror image of her father. Dark complexion, tight curls, curvy and a Pro at Chess. Yahaira is a rule follower who connects to her dad by way of Chess, it isn’t necessarily her favorite hobby but she’s a natural just like her dad. Yahaira is a Lesbian with a girlfriend who was also her childhood best friend, I LIVED for their nerd/fashionista love! Yahaira also lives with her mother who is described as a beautiful Dominican bombshell who is the daughter of a very important General in Santo Domingo. Yahaira’s mother has been a keeper of her husbands secrets, my heart really broke for the levels of pain she was feeling.
Yano – Although the girls dad has passed away & we never get to see him on the page, his presence is deeply felt all throughout. The man who became very good at living a double life was complex in many ways but one thing was true, he loved his daughters.
Elizabeth Acevedo is my Favorite YA author & this book only further solidifies this in my heart. I knew the premise of the book but I didn’t expect to see similarities with my own father in these pages. I lost my dad to natural causes, flew with him to bury him in Puerto Rico and quickly started hearing the rumbles of secrets. Secrets kept from my own father which were very painful & also had to do with paternity. I cried, smiled, and sometimes outright laughed out loud reading this story. There’s something oh so satisfying when you open a book and are met with characters you can relate to. Characters with the same upbringings & even spiritual beliefs.
I appreciated the research that went into flight AA587 as well as Dengue fever & its effects on the island. With a return to Acevedo’s novel-in-verse Format, Clap When You Land is a vivid portrayal of the devastation of loss, grief, and forgiveness. It’s also a story that gives us a different perspective, that of the parents who sometimes may be idolized by their children but ultimately are still very humanly flawed. The backstory on Yano & how he came to live two separate lives was painful but not unheard of. This is one I’ll cherish for all the emotions it stirred up in me. Elizabeth Acevedo continues to be such a blessing to Latinx Book Community 🙌🏽
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