Books, Uncategorized

Review: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Thank you to NetGalley, Bonnier Zaffre and HotKey Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!

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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.

Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.

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Clap When You Land is loosely inspired by the real life event of the American Airlines flight 587. In 2001 flight AA 587 was travelling to the Dominican Republic and crashed in Queens, New York, killing two hundred and sixty people; over ninety per cent of the passengers were of Dominican descent and returning home.

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As always, a few content warnings: Sexual harassment, sexual assault, cheating.

I’ve been excited to read this since I read The Poet X earlier this year, which easily put Elizabeth Acevedo into my top 10 authors. I would read the back of cereal boxes if she wrote them!

I didn’t know anything about this tragedy prior to picking up this book which shocked me. The fact that this is the second largest aviation accident in US history makes this story all the more important. Once it was discovered that terrorism wasn’t involved, it was put to the sidelines, leaving an entire community of Dominicans both in the US and DR grieving alone. The author’s note is just as important as the story itself.

Once again, Elizabeth Acevedo has created a story which punches you right in the gut. Her command of verse and her ability to make every word impactful and powerful is second to none, saying more in a single line than most authors do in a paragraph or chapter.

This book is a beautiful exploration of family, grief, and what happens when people you love aren’t who they say they are. The complex range of emotions felt within the narrative are handled with grace and sensitivity. The first person perspective made me feel closer to the girls, so each emotion, their confusion and every bit of hurt that both Camino and Yahaira felt was stark and raw. I particularly enjoyed the way each parental figure was portrayed, and how their grief and emotions were seen through the girls’ eyes. Acevedo has a way of connecting with young people and their view of the world.

Acevedo highlights difficult subjects like poverty, sexuality, race and class, exploring the two girls’ upbringing and their stark differences, but also the similarities between the them. She writes about the girls with such care that they seem like real people, which was entirely her point. The tragedy that occurred affected regular people and she wanted to show that. Each character feels fleshed out and has a place in the story. The way the sisters are given little quirks and personality traits that they both share, despite being worlds apart, made me love them even more. The contrast between their two cultures was also fascinating to read, from the environments they were raised in, to the opportunities they have been given. Their joint struggle to form their own identities transcends background, and is a feeling that everybody can identify with.

Whilst this story starts with a man, it is entirely focused on the women and their experiences. This story is a powerfully feminist piece which delves into grief and the effects of great tragedy, but also how good can come out of horrific experiences. This is unlike anything I’ve ever read and no review that I post will do it justice. I gave this book 5 stars and a space on my favourites shelf!

 

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