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.
In a dual narrative novel in verse that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Expected publication date: May 5th
*I received a kindle edition / ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Trigger warnings: sexual assault, loss of a parent
Clap When You Land is an emotive, powerful and arresting novel which follows two young women coming to terms with their fathers death and the secrets he held during his lifetime. As well as telling the story of two different and equally interesting, complex and loveable characters in Camino and Yahaira, the story touches upon family, culture, sexual harassment and assault as well as betrayal and the secrets people keep. This is (shamefully) my first time reading any of Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing but it definitely won’t be the last.
I also want to note that this book examines which stories are told and which stories are deemed to deserve more or less attention in the media. In the authors note, Acevedo explains the tragedy that befell the passengers and people on the ground, after flight AA587 crashed on it’s way from New York to the Dominican Republic, in the November of 2001. Acevedo also touches upon how incredibly difficult and confusing this loss was for the loved ones of those affected as well as the wider Dominican community as a whole. From reading the novel it is clear just how deeply and passionately Acevedo feels about telling the stories of her community and this made me appreciate the novel even more.
The novel is split in a dual narrative and perspective, with Camino and Yahaira respectively. This works so incredibly well due to the nature of the story and also because both characters are given time to really shine and have distinct voices. I never had a problem distinguishing between who was speaking – it’s also helped that the relevant name is highlighted at the beginning of each chapter, but even without this, I feel like a reader would be able to tell due to the distinct character work.
I liked that we got to check in between both girls, whose upbringings and experiences are worlds apart in so many ways. While both girls are no strangers to the dangers of living where they do, Camino in the Dominican Republic and Yahaira in New York City, the disparities between their experiences is evident. Acevedo skilfully explores social inequality, privilege, sexual assault and identity in a way which leaves a deep and lasting impression. While their separate sections were great, I loved when the two eventually meet and manage to make sense of their shared loss and are able to form a meaningful and healing sisterhood. It’s especially heartwarming to see them grow to trust and appreciate one another, after the initial wariness.
I also really loved the secondary characters, who are vital to the story and add so much. Yahaira’s girlfriend, Andrea aka Dre is so great and wholesome. I thought Yahaira’s mother, Zoila was such an interesting and important character, understandably her relationship with her husband is complex and fractured due to his dual life, and it is such a key moment when she voices that as good a father as he was, he was not as good and committed a husband. I also have such a soft spot for Tía Solana who is such a warm and unwavering presence in Camino’s life, and is the literal embodiment of unconditional and selfless love. I think we could all use a Tía Solana in our lives.
While the novel is very much about Camino and Yahaira and their very real voices and lives, it is also about their father who has essentially led a double life for many years. I think this was done in such a real and genuine way. Their father isn’t demonised but is clearly flawed and complex, just like any individual in reality. It shows how he could be a deeply loving and present father but also secretive and make mistakes. Reading the difficulties both Camino and Yahaira face reconciling the father they thought they knew with who he really was and coming to see some uncomfortable truths was profound and sensitively done. I feel like many readers may be able to relate to this idea of coming to terms with who your parents are and these expectations and notions being forced to change and shift, in big and small ways.
Overall, I would really recommend to readers who have enjoyed Acevedo’s other work as well as readers in search of compelling contemporary / Y/A fiction. This book is so moving and I feel it will really resonate with readers and importantly, it also highlights the tragedy which befell the passengers and others involved on the AA587 flight, which I sadly hadn’t heard about prior to reading this book. I am glad that I know now, and I will always remember.
Until next time,