Review: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Challenge prompt: A book that passes the Bechdel Test

Blurb:

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.

What I liked:

This is one of the first novels I’ve read in free verse. It did take a little while to get used to this form of storytelling when I’m so used to prose. But it’s a beautiful way to tell this story.

The story here is a fictionalised version of a real plane crash, and I do think it was handled incredibly well. The raw emotion felt as the details of the plane crash come to light here mirror those from 2001 perfectly.

I love the inclusions of Spanish dotted throughout the book. It gives the story and this book a lot more authenticity, as I spent most of Camino’s narrative thinking “in reality they’d be having these discussions in Spanish.”

There’s so much inclusivity in this book. The LGBT rep is fantastic, and it’s so great to see two supportive families in this book. I know that’s not the reality for so many people. It also portrays loss, grief, bereavement, and depression so incredibly well.

I particularly enjoyed the ending of this book. I loved Camino’s ending, and I felt it was the perfect outcome for her.

What I didn’t like:

There are quite a few trigger warnings here. Death and bereavement are obvious from the blurb of course. There’s also cancer, sexual assault, and sexual harrassment in this book.

Out of five:

Four and a half. A breathtaking story dealt with beautifully.

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