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Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo - Review

Monday, August 10, 2020

Where did I get it? I bought it from Waterstones a couple of months ago when I did a huge order, it was one of the books I actually meant to buy instead of just picked up by browsing! 

What's it about? It's told in free verse, like Elizabeth's book The Poet X. It is about sisters Yahaira and Camino. They don't know that the other exists, but they have the same dad. Usually, he lives in New York City with Yahaira and her mum, but every summer he goes back to the Dominican Republic, where he's from, to see Camino. He spends three months there, over Camino's birthday, and arrives back in NYC in time for Yahaira's birthday in September.

So at the beginning of the book, their Papi sets off on a plane from NYC, and Camino goes to the airport to meet him. However, there she finds that the plane crashed soon after take off, into the ocean, and there are no survivors. Camino is now an orphan, as her mother died when she was only six, and she is looked after by her Tia, her mother's sister. 

Camino lives in a barrio in the Dominican Republic, but thanks to her dad sending money to her, she and her aunt have had a better life than some of their neighbours. They live in a two bedroomed house that is fenced in against intruders, and they don't usually struggle for food. Camino goes to a private school and wants to go to America to study to be a doctor at Columbia University. She believes her dad has been trying to get her to America, but she doesn't know about his wife and other child. Not that her dad is dead, the protections he paid for are no longer valid, and there's a creepy guy called El Cero who keeps following Camino everywhere. 

Yahaira is at school when she is called to the office and her mother breaks the news that her father has died. Her mother absolutely goes to pieces in the wake of his death. She decides that Papi's body will be taken back to the Dominican Republic for burial, but that neither she nor Yahaira will attend the funeral. Yahaira is gay, and in a relationship with her neighbour, Dre. Dre is black, and a gardener - she grows herbs on the fire escape of their building in Morningside Heights. I would have liked to see more of Yahaira's life in general, as I feel like there was lots of Camino's but less of hers. But that's my only criticism. 

The two girls deal with their grief for their father and learn about each other and eventually meet. 

I read a thing maybe on Twitter a few weeks back from Elizabeth herself I think which talked about the fact that her books always have happy endings and how she deliberately writes them that way because marginalised kids deserve to see kids like themselves get the happy endings. That made a lot of sense to me and it's something I try to write myself. So I knew Clap When You Land had a happy ending and I loved knowing that going into it - it made it a really positive and special book. Elizabeth has such a lightness of touch with her words. I genuinely think she's one of the best YA authors around. 

What age range is it for? I think it's quite open at the lower end, so I'd say from twelve years old for some twelve year olds. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Yahaira and Dre are. I would have liked to see a bit more of them, Dre was so lovely. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Obviously! I liked learning more about the Dominican Republic and people who live there, it's not something I'm very familiar with at all. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No. 

Is there any sex stuff? A tiny bit, there is some sexual violence too. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I don't think so? 

Is there any talk of death? Yes. It is a little graphic, as obviously Papi has died in horrible circumstances. However, I am very sensitive to deaths like this and drowning especially, and I didn't think it was too horrific. 

Are there swear words? Yes, used very judiciously. 

What criticisms do I have? Only what I've mentioned above. 

Would I recommend the book? One hundred percent. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I knew I wanted to get to it soon. 

What do I think of the cover? It's gorgeous. It has both girls on it. There's quite a bit in the book about how similar looking they are and how they look like their dad, and I think the cover really reflects that. 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of One by Sarah Crossan

How many stars? Ten out of ten, it's a gorgeous, gorgeous book 

Where is the book going now? Oh I'll keep this!

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