“Camino Rios lives for the summers, when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this year, 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, 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 Yahaira and Camino are both left to grapple with what a new sister means to them and what it will take to keep their dreams alive.”
-Synopsis from the book
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo was my first read of 2021, and what a great book to start with! Since I enjoyed Acevedo’s other books (The Poet X, and With the Fire on High) I knew I was going to like this one.
The story is written in verse just like The Poet X, with each page consisting of a sprinkling of lines of carefully chosen word to paint the story. There are sections dividing Camino’s perspective and Yahaira’s, as they find out about the plane crash and how it affects each of their lives.
This story is as much about Camino and Yahaira as it is about the Dominican Republic communities both in New York and in the DR itself. I really enjoyed reading about Camino’s life on the island. It truly came alive on the page.
I really felt for both the characters, but especially Yahaira who knew a small part of her father’s lies but not the extent of what his “other” life truly encompassed. Yahaira thinks she is protecting her own mother by not revealing what she knows about her father, but then her mother hits her with the full truth and she feels entirely uprooted.
When the girls learn of each other’s existence and contact each other, they both go back and forth between affection and spite. Both are analyzing how the other’s life compared to her own and what their father was able to give (or not give) each of the. The story is never really about their father and why he did what he did, only about the girl’s and their community, and how they are going to find a way to move forward.
I enjoyed this book but I wasn’t as gripped by it as I was by The Poet X and With the Fire on High, which were truly standouts to me. However, I think there is an important story being told in Clap When You Land, which is based on a true story of a flight going down from NYC to the Dominican Republic, and Acevedo has a very moving acknowledgements section in which she writes about this affect on her own life and community.