Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo Book Review

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Title: Clap When You LandAuthor: Elizabeth Acevedo
Pages: 417
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 5th May 2020
Genre: fiction

About the book
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.

Review (warning: spoilers!)
I had very high expectations for Clap When You Land because I've seen nothing but rave reviews all over bookstagram. People LOVE this book - and love the author - and there is generally just a lot of hype surrounding it. I've heard Acevedo's other books are outstanding and so I was very excited to pick this up and give it a read. This book explores themes of grief, mourning, cultural differences, sexual abuse and stalking and given that this is a YA novel, I was intrigued as to how this incredibly well received author would tackle such important topics. I've also never read a book written in verse and I just so desperately wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Now, my expectations were high. Perhaps a little too high, because Clap When You Land just didn't fully meet what I was expecting to get from this book. The premise sounds incredible and like nothing I've read before; two sisters who had previously not known of each other's existence but find each other through the grief of their father after he is killed in a plane crash. It sounds like an amazing story, right?

If I'm being completely honest, the pacing was just way off and the two sisters didn't feel distinctive enough to set them apart and they never felt truely 'real' to me. From a readers point of view, there was very little to distinguish one from the other and at times it felt like I could have been reading about either one of them, despite being a dual narrative. I wish each sister's personality shone through that little bit more. I wanted them to be united in grief but also bring something different to each other's lives. They were too much of the same person, and I get that the author was trying to show a connection to these sisters, but no two people are the same, and that's not even taking into account the huge cultural differences between these girls. In the author's notes, Acevedo reveals she only made the decision to split the book into two POVs until much later on, and unfortunately, you can really tell as Camino and Yahaira just didn’t feel distinctive enough.

Something else this book focuses on is sexual harassment and this is probably my biggest issue with this book. Hear me out. We hear of a time when Yahaira is molested during a train ride when she was younger, and throughout the book, Camino is trying to avoid the threat of El Cero, the local pimp who stalks her and tries to coax her into working for him. At this point, it's worth mentioning that El Cero is a truely awful character who literally made my skin crawl. However, my biggest issue with this extremely sensitive and complex storyline is that it's not talked about in-depth enough. I also don't personally agree with the way the author made out Camino was too concerned about what was going on in her family and friend's live that she couldn't open up to them. We hear of Camino and her aunt Tia's close relationship, and yet Camino lets Tia believe she is flirting and getting involved with El Cero all because she doesn't want to bother her? Why do so many YA books put the idea in the reader's (younger readers, at that) head that you can't talk to your friends and family about sexual harassment? I just don't understand it. YA books should not be normalising this behaviour. In this book in particular, it ultimately comes down to El Cero trying to rape Camino but she is saved because her sister (who has only been in her life for, what, a week tops?) has figured out where she might be after she is missing from the house. Okay, sure, that certainly has more shock value, but I simply don't agree with it and so, so many young people are not saved in this miraculous way in real life.

Even though this book has it's shortfalls, I still wanted to give it three stars because I really enjoyed the premise and I've never read a YA book like this before and the representation in the book is simply brilliant. I've heard that Acevedo always includes LGBTQ representation in her stories and I'm here for that. Acevedo writes poetically and passionately and the writing is simply beautiful. Like I mentioned above, I've never read a book that's written in verse before, but I really enjoyed this style of storytelling and I'll be on the lookout for more books written in verse!

I feel like I've gone in really harsh on this book, but that's only because I really enjoyed it and it was very close to being a truely exceptional book. I feel like I can talk (or write) more about 3 and four star books that I can about five star books... anyone else?!

Like I mentioned, it was so close to being that much better but I still loved the premise. I did really enjoy Clap When You Land and I would read more books from Acevedo.

Verdict: ★★★

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