Xolo Score 4/5
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo is a novel-in-verse that follows sisters Camino and Yahaira Rios in the direct aftermath of their father's death in the tragic plane crash of American Airlines Flight 587. Initially unaware of each other's existence, Camino and Yahaira's fates intertwine as they process their grief and complicated emotions for a father, they loved and revered.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
What immediately captures the reader's attention is the novel-in-verse structure of the story. Although it's becoming more common, telling a story in verse breaks from traditional styles of written storytelling. Every word is intentional and evokes deep emotion, perfect for a story centered on grief and loss. And as the story flips back and forth between Camino and Yahaira's point-of-view, the reader soon learns the different beats and rhythms that distinguish the two sisters' personalities.
Both sisters are Afro-Dominican, and the book explores the impact of growing up in the Dominican Republic versus in the United States. Both Camino and Yahaira consider themselves to have a comfortable lifestyle, but once the sisters know of the other's existence, they naturally compare their situations. Camino is an aspiring Doctor who wants to mix modern medicine with the wholistic teachings of her curandera Tia. Although opportunities to leave the island are slim, Camino is determined to make her dreams a reality. In comparison, Yahaira is queer and a world-class chess player who knows that being a lady and a leader are not mutually exclusive. But Yahaira struggles with her Dominican-American identity and aches to understand her ancestral home. And once the two sisters meet in the Dominican Republic, they both are self-assured and treasure the circumstances of their upbringing because it's what lead them to who they are today.
Acevedo delves into the messiness of a grieving family in a way that's powerful and inspiring, even if it's a bit predictable. One character, Yahaira's mother Zoila, exposes the harsher realities of grief when she forbids Yahaira from going to the Dominican Republic for her father's funeral. Zoila grapples with the disappointment of having her husband love and father a child with another woman. But Yahaira and Camino were deeply loved and cared for by their father. Several times the reader, as well as Yahaira, becomes frustrated with Zoila. Love and marriage are complex and don't always look like the heteronormative monogamy society sells. And it's for that reason, Zoila's pettiness and anger are validated because that love was genuine, and losing it is painful.
And although so much of the story centers on the death of Camino and Yahaira's beloved father, the loss helps them determine who they want to become and what it means to be a familia. It also ignites an unbreakable sense of sorority among the sisters, Zoila and Camino's Tia. Truth comes with a lot of pain. And it is with each other's strength and support they can take that next step forward toward healing.
Clap When You Land will having you thinking twice about judging people for being Airplane clappers.
Are there BIPOC leading characters and perspectives?
Does the author avoid writing the BIPOC characters through the white gaze?
Does the author challenge white-centered beliefs?
Does it explore the nuances between intersectional identities?