{Review} CLAP WHEN YOU LAND by Elizabeth Acevedo

O P E N I N G   H O O K:


I know that when a street doesn't have sidewalks 
& water rises to flood the tile floors of your home, 
learning mud is learning the language of survival. 

I know too much of mud. 
How Tía will snap at you with a dishrag if you track it inside.
How you need to raise the bed during hurricane season.

How mud will dry   & cling stubbornly to a shoe.
Or a wall. To Vira Lata the dog & your exposed food.
I know there's mud that splatters as a motoconcho drives past.

Mud that suctions & slurps at the high heels
of the working girls I once went to school with.
Mud that softens,     unravels into a road leading nowhere.

& mud got a mind of its own. Wants to enwrap
your penny loafers, hug up on your uniform skirt.
Press kisses to your knees & make you slip down to meet it.

"Don't let it stain you," Tía's always said. 
But can't she see? This place we're from already has its prints on me.

I spend nights wiping clean the bottoms of my feet,
soiled rag over a bucket, undoing this mark of place.
To be from this barrio is to be made of this earth & clay;

dirt-packed, water-backed, third-world smacked:
they say, the soil beneath a country's nail, they say.
I love my home. But it might be a sinkhole
trying to feast    quicksand
mouth pried open; I hunger for stable ground,
somewhere else.

(Pages 7-8, US e-book edition)

When you touch down on this soil, you must clap when you land. Para dar gracias a Dios. Regrezamos.


CLAP WHEN YOU LAND by Elizabeth Acevedo is one of those books that is both steeped in tragedy and alight with hope and renewal and second chances. I was afraid this book would have me sobbing all over the place, knowing its starting point, but instead, it is about resiliency and taking chances and grabbing for a new start.

Camino and Yahaira seemingly have nothing in common. Camino lives in the Dominican Republic, and Yahaira in New York City. The girls have never met one another or know of each other's existence. However, a deadly plane crash reveals that they share a father, that they are, in fact, sisters, and life will never be the same again.

Camino is bright and trying to make the best of her life, studying at a fancy private school and getting good grades so she can become a doctor and move to the USA where her father lives, getting her and her Tía into a better living environment. Every June, she looks forward to when her father is able to travel to the Dominican Republic and spend the summer with her. But this year, the unthinkable happens and his plane never arrives. Now Camino and Tía are out of money, and a dangerous man has come to try to lure Camino into a seedy life that has trapped so many other girls when she thought she'd be the one who could get away...

Yahaira has never really thought twice of the fact that her father travels a lot. When she is assaulted on public transit, she tries to contact her father, and in searching through his office, discovers that his father has a second wife. For the next year, she refuses to talk to her father, and then he is killed in a plane crash and she never even said goodbye. On top of that, her world is turned upside down when she finds out that she also has a half-sister. With the help of her girlfriend, Yahaira buys a plane ticket without her father's permission and heads to the Dominican Republic to get the answers she can never ask her father for...

This is a story of family and the skeletons we store in the closet. When those cobwebs are dusted and secrets are revealed, worlds often crumble and change. Sometimes for better, others for worse. For Camino and Yahaira, in losing their father, they find one another. Both girls idolized their father, and must re-discover him as a man with flaws and come to terms with what he's left them. They must also come to terms with themselves and their own identities. Yahaira feels straddled between two worlds. While she's never been to the Dominican Republic, due to her upbringing, she sometimes feels she is of two worlds, and never belonging to either. Camino has tried so hard to stay on the right track and make her dreams come true and to get out of the life she was brought into, but circumstances keep her down, and she must discover what she really wants in life.

An extra layer to this book is the history it gives us. While not historical fiction, there is an author's note about how Acevedo was inspired by tragedy. Acevedo states, "When I was thirteen years old, two months and one day after September 11, 2001, flight AA587 crashed to the ground in Queens, New York. It was on its way to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Two hundred sixty people, plus five people on the ground, died. More than 90 percent of the passengers were of Dominican descent. Many were returning home. It completely rocked the New York Dominican community. It is the second-deadliest aviation crash in United States history." (Page 338, e-book edition)
She goes on to discuss the impact on her and the way it was quickly forgotten from history after the discovery that terrorism wasn't involved. This novel remembers the deceased while bringing a new story into the world and helping a new audience remember them as well.

Additionally, I loved the fun tidbit of history revolving around where the book's title, CLAP WHEN YOU LAND, comes from. When Dominicans return home and the plan lands, they clap. It is a moment of thanks for the safe arrival. This used to be tradition in many countries, but has largely faded away. I really loved this moment and feel we need to bring this back and reflect on safe arrivals, which we have taken for granted. We should never assume or expect, and be grateful for the gifts we are given that we've begun to take for granted, and I loved that extra message in the book that may make more readers think like this as well.

While this is a novel of grief and anger, it is also one of hope and tenderness. Finding one another is both a blessing and a curse for Camino and Yahaira, who have so much to work through, both together and individually. If you love touching stories with family at the heart, you are going to want to pick up CLAP WHEN YOU LAND to read this summer.


If you are able to, please purchases a copy from a Black-Owned Bookstore,
such as my semi-local stores Uncle Bobbie's Coffee and Books or Harriett's Bookshop in Philadelphia!

You can order from sites such as Bookshop and Libro.fm and request that the proceeds go toward the store of your choice -- the store will receive a portion of the proceeds and it will help so much!

You can also donate to their GoFundMe to help keep the store in business!


""If a heart has topography, 
I know none of these boys know the coordinates 
to navigate & survive mine's rough terrain.""(Page 44)

"A queen
offers her hand to be kissed,
& can form it into a fist
while smiling the whole damn time." (Page 82)

"Dreams are like the pieces of fluff that get caught in your hair; 
they stand out for a moment, but eventually you wash them away, or long fingers reach in & pluck them out 
& you appear as what everyone expects.(Page 99)

"If tension is a winged monster, 
it's cast its feathers 
on the roof of my house.(Page 174)

"My Lizzie, my little star. I never want to tell you not to burn as fast and as bright as you can." (Page 216)

"They don't do that as much anymore. This must be a plane of Dominicans returning home;
 when you touch down on this soil, you must clap when you land. 
Para dar gracias a Dios. Regrezamos.(Page 262)


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: G ( Kissing )
Language: PG13 ( F-bombs and damns. )
Violence: PG13 ( Two instances where men attempt to assault girls, though nothing visual occurs  )
Other:  PG13 ( Parental death and aftermath. Attempted sexual assault. Girls getting groomed to become sex workers.)
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I love how the designers created two individual girls who show off their uniqueness, yet we get to see both of them on the cover. And I love how the silhouette of a plane both divides them and ties them together.

I read a digital copy, but I've seen pictures of the physical copy, and it looks like when you take off the jacket, you get to see more of the building and plants on the boards of the book! I can't wait to take a peek in person. WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH is gorgeous under the jacket, and this looks like it is as well!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Release Date: May 5, 2020
Publisher: HarperTeen
Received: Borrowed from Library 

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.