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CLAP WHEN YOU LAND by Elizabeth Acevedo

& there was a moment when the wheels first touched down

that my heart plummeted in my chest, but when we were slowing

 

& a smattering of passengers erupted into applause.

The old lady in the seat beside me said in Spanish,

 

“They don’t do that as much anymore. This must be a plane

of Dominicans returning home;

 

when you touch down on this soil, you must clap when you land….”

I am such a huge fan of Elizabeth’s Acevedo’s work! I was so excited to get my hands on Clap When You Land when it came out. I could easily have read it in one sitting, but I pulled it out to a few days so I could really savor it. It does not disappoint!Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic. She sees her father only in the summers. Her mother has died and she lives with her maternal aunt. Her father lives and works in New York the remainder of the year; the plan has been to bring Camino to the United States for college after she graduates. Yahaira Rios lives in New York with her parents. Her father goes to the Dominican Republic every summer for work. Both girls have the same father; they find this out when his plane crashes en route to the Dominican Republic for his annual summer trip and there are no survivors. Both must deal with the grief of losing a parent as well as the hurt and anger of discovering he had part of a life with another family.

Acevedo reveals the complexity of the situation and the emotions left in its wake. On top of losing her father, Camino must figure out how to keep her dream of going to college in the US and becoming a doctor, which seems impossible now without the financial help and protection her father was providing. When Camino and Yahaira meet they must navigate conflicting emotions and practical obstacles.

CAMINO:

A truth you did not want

can put a collar around your neck

 

& lead you into the dark,

the places where all your

monsters live.

YAHAIRA:

Papi had two lives.

Papi had two daughters.

 

Papi was a man split in two,

playing a game against himself.

 

But the problem with that

is that in order to win, you also always lose.

I LOVED both Camino and Yahaira. They are written brilliantly–like all Acevedo’s adolescent/teenage female characters. Their strengths, challenges and vulnerabilities are squarely in the teenage spectrum of development–as are their capabilities to transcend them in certain moments. The character of Zoila (Yahaira’s mother) surprised me with her depth–and touched me profoundly. The way in which the ever-present fear and trauma of sexual assault is blended with the storyline and its power to unite Camino, her aunt, Yahaira and Zoila in a moment of deep connection took my breath away.

Acevedo’s writing allows the reader’s heart to ache (and exult, and breathe) with her characters in a way that is completely genuine. I am in awe of authors who are able to write stories of deep and significant emotion and impact without manipulating either the characters or the plot. Acevedo’s work is especially phenomenal in this aspect.

Clap When You Land is another extraordinary work from Elizabeth Acevedo–yet another of her books I will be putting in as many hands as I can! Written in exquisite free verse, alternating between Camino’s and Yahaira’s voice, the story sucks you in from the first few pages and never lets go. I guess officially a part of the YA genre, Clap When You Land–like ALL of Acevedo’s work–is a phenomenal work of literature irrespective of any group to which it is assigned.

If you haven’t read them yet, check out her other books The Poet X and With The Fire on High–all her books have been 5-star reads for me.