About: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo is about two sisters (one in the Dominican Republic and one in NYC) who didn't know of one another's existence until their father's tragic death on a flight from NYC to DR. Inspired by an actual plane crash that had occurred two months after 9/11 and was mostly ignored, Acevedo writes a beautiful novel-in-verse that shows us the impact of secrets, hurt, loss, and discovery.
First Impressions: The storyline is interesting. A father has two separate families in DR and in the States and as a reader I was hooked into the potential drama. It was a telenovella (soap opera) waiting to happen. While the novel itself didn't end up being as dramatic and over-the-top as I'd expected (that's not even Acevedo's style, so I dunno what I was thinking lol), the language evoked strong images and emotions.
At first, I wondered if the story would have been better told in prose. Using verse creates a focus on images and emotion, rather than plot; I'd found the plot intriguing and was concerned about its development being lacking.
Camino (DR) and Yahaira (NYC) have similar physical features, yet are completely different. We see both of their perspectives regarding their father's death and discovery of one another, in alternative chapters. I found that Camino seemed more fleshed out and more of a person to me. Yahaira felt a little stereotypical and cliche. I do very much enjoy Acevedo's portrayal of LGBT characters. She doesn't make it a big announcement or major conflict; it's simply part of who they are and completely natural.
The language and style was rhythmic and powerful. I read this novel with my heart rather than my mind. It was like being carried in a current that was often gentle but sometimes turbulent as well. I enjoyed the switch in narrative perspective. It created a direct comparison of the sisters. As a result, Camino's voice was just so much stronger and vivid than her sister's. Maybe that's the point being made? DR/Latinx is outward passion, while the USA/Americans is inward?
The story unfolded slowly for ¾ of the novel, building up to the climax. However, when we finally reached the climax, I was a little underwhelmed. Maybe I had bigger expectations than I should have for the sisters meeting for the first time. I still very much enjoyed experiencing their budding relationship with one another and the ending warmed my heart.
I would recommend Clap When You Land to anyone who enjoys emotion over pure plot, enjoys beautiful language, strong imagery, and is interested in a story about sisters kept secret from the other. This might not be for someone seeking truly vivid characters who seem to come alive off the page or who don't enjoy novels written in verse.
I enjoyed this book a lot and couldn't stop reading the last quarter until I finished it. However, I think I liked Poet X better and would recommend that over Clap When You Land because Xiomara was more vivid for me.
Hope my thoughts were helpful. Let me know yours in the comments.
It’s definitely a book you read more for the language and writing style than the “plot.” Loved your review!