Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Clap When You Land is a poignant novel in verse by National Book Award-winner Elizabeth Acevedo that touches on themes of culture, connection and identity. It is the story of two girls separated by an ocean who have never met each other and yet, unbeknownst to either, share a father. Camino lives in the Dominican Republic, helping her aunt tend to the sick in their neighbourhood whilst fighting for her dream of becoming a doctor. Meanwhile, Yahaira is a former chess-champion living in New York who shares a fire escape with her girlfriend and struggles with strained family dynamics. Following the death of their father in the November 2001 crash of American Airlines Flight 587 bound for Santa Domingo, the two girls’ lives are overturned as they find each other in the midst of their grief.
Acevedo presents a poignant narrative that exposes the raw souls of her characters, as well as their flaws and desires, in a way that truly makes them feel three-dimensional. As Camino and Yahaira both struggle with grief, you see them grow as individuals as they each grapple with the various layers of their Dominican identities and come to understand their newfound sisterhood. Their father is an equally complex individual – neither a hero nor a villain, but simply an imperfect and utterly human figure caught up in two different lives for reasons that are uncovered throughout the novel.
Each chapter of Clap When You Land brims with lyrical and poetic prose that flows from one line to another. The protagonists’ voices are distinct and raw whilst giving the reader glimpses into the fascinating settings, communities and cultures of New York and Santa Domingo. Acevedo has written yet another meaningful read imbued with vivid imagery and emotion that is sure to pull at heartstrings.