Friday, December 4, 2020

Book Review: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Title: Clap When You Land 
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Pages: 432
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In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

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. 

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo is a powerful story about grief, love, and family. A few months ago, I came across the book With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo and I fell in love. The stories she paints are heartbreakingly beautiful. In 2020, it can sometimes seem like all of the stories worth writing have been written but each book I read by her feels like a breath of fresh air.

On November 12, 2001, Flight 587 was making a regular light from JFK airport to the Dominican Republic. Shortly after takeoff, the plane tragically crashed in Queens, New York City. There were 265 casualties of Flight 587 - 260 passengers and crew and 5 people on the ground. This crash was a shock to the U.S., especially coming so soon after 9/11, but it was a devastation to both the New York and the Domincan Republic communities; an estimated 90% of the people on board were of Domincan descent.

When the story opens, we read about Camino Rios anticipating her father’s yearly visit to the Dominican Republic. For sixteen years, he has flown from New York to the Dominican Republic to spend the summer, and her birthday, with her. This year though, something was different. She arrived at the airport only to see passengers’ loved ones crying instead of smiling in anticipation and joy. Meanwhile, back in New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office where she finds out that her father died in a plane crash on his way to the Dominican Republic to visit the sister she didn’t know she had.

Acevedo’s writing was poetic and poignant as always. The way she navigated the love story between these two sisters was beautiful and lyrical. Every family has its secrets and when they come out, they can either rip you apart or they can sew you closer together. As Acevedo’s free verse words flow, we are painted a picture of these sisters being stitched together by the love their father had for them. We see two halves of one family grieving together and discovering how to navigate in a world without their sun; without the light that helped them make it through the day.

As always, Acevedo’s characters came to life for me. I could close my eyes and swear that Camino and Yahaira were sitting right beside me. It was as if I could reach out and touch their heartbreak with my own two hands. This book made me laugh and it made me cry. If I had to choose something I disliked about, it would be that it wasn’t longer. I felt myself still craving more of Camino and Yahaira’s story as it came to an end. However, that’s not a surprise as Acevedo always leaves me wanting more.