Camino Rios is excited because her dad is arriving for his annual summer visit in their small town in the Dominican Republic. She has big dreams of joining him some day in New York City and attending medical school at Columbia. Camino’s whole world is shattered when his plane crashes into the ocean.
Yahaira Rios is in school when she gets the news that her dad didn’t make it to the DR for his trip, because his plane crashed on the way there. Her girlfriend is there to comfort Yahaira, but everything feels extra awful, since Yahaira knows her dad’s secret and needs to protect her mother.
Two half-sisters, both sixteen years old, and neither knows of the other. It’s only a matter of time before they find out, however, which will change their lives all over again.
The Characters & The Writing Style
Typically, in our reviews here at TLR, we have separate sections for “The Characters” and “The Writing Style.” However, because of the way Clap When You Land is written, it’s best to talk about them together.
I mentioned in my intro that it’s a novel in verse, which means that it’s written entirely as poetry. It shifts between Camino and Yahaira’s perspectives, who each share their experiences from the day their father dies until a couple of months later. Shifting back and forth between them, we see these girls grapple with very similar feelings and issues, even though they’re thousands of miles apart and don’t know about each other.
It’s very easy to know which narrator is talking, even without the section headers that tell us, because their cultural contexts and landscapes are so different. The friends and family in their lives are a part of that, helping us gain a fuller understanding of who these two girls are. Their pain and fear from losing their father is palpable in the beginning of the story and I was very curious to see if and how they would come together to build a relationship. The payoff for that is absolutely worth it and I was a mess at the end because it’s so beautiful.
If you’re wondering whether to pick this book up in audio or ebook/hardcover, get the audiobook. It’s not even a question, because the audio version is phenomenal. Acevedo performs Yahaira and Melania-Luisa Marte, who is also a poet and performance artist, performs Camino. And friends… I get shivers just thinking about listening to Clap When You Land, because the words and the performances are that good. If you can’t get the audiobook, definitely pick up the ebook or hardcover. Just know that there’s a whole other dimension that’s worth the extra cost of the audiobook.
My Favourite Parts
Is it fair to say “all of the words” are my favourite? Probably not, but it’s still true.
The characters are vivid, their lives are interesting, and the way they tell their stories is so compelling, I’ll be recommending this book to anyone who will listen over the coming months.
I have one content warning for you all. At the risk of getting a little spoilery, there’s a high level of sexual threat in this book, particularly towards Camino. Her dad had been paying a guy to keep an eye on her, and once her dad is gone, that guy turns into a gigantic creep. He doesn’t rape Camino, but he is a serious problem. Also, Yahaira recounts a memory of being groped on a subway that’s fairly graphic.
I don’t think anyone should necessarily avoid the book because of these things. I just know many you like to know before going into a book if there’s any sexual violence.
Are you even still reading this review? Or have you already hit the buy link? Because if you haven’t, you should. This might be a YA novel, but I highly recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re looking to read something different from the usual lesfic fare. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I can’t wait to go back and listen to this author’s other books.
Excerpt from Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Papi was not here in Sosúa the day that I was born.
Instead, Mamá held her sister Tía Solana’s hand when she was dando a luz.
I’ve always loved that phrase for birthing:
dando a luz giving to light.
I was my mother’s gift to the sun of her life.
She revolved around my father,
the classic distant satellite
that came close enough to eclipse her once a year.
But that year, the one I was born, he was busy
in New York City. Wired us money & a name in his stead.
Told Mamá to call me Camino.
Sixteen years ago, the day I was born, was light-filled.
Tía has told me so. It is the only birthday Papi ever missed.
A bright July day. But it seems this year he’ll miss it too.
Because the people at the airport are wailing, crying,
hands cast up: it fell, they say. It fell.
They say the plane fell right out the sky.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9780062882769
- Publisher: Quill Tree Books
- Audiobook Publisher: Quill Tree Books
- Narrator: Elizabeth Acevedo and Melania-Luisa Marte
- Elizabeth Acevedo Online
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