offers her hand to be kissed,
& can form it into a fist
while smiling the whole damn time.”
I always hear such high praise for Acevedo’s novels, and after enjoying With the Fire on High, I knew I had to read Clap When You Land! It has everything I love in stories – it explores grief, coming to terms with the fact that your parents are also just people, sisters… It was set up to be something I really enjoyed (plus it has the most gorgeous cover which is always a plus in my book). But unfortunately, it really wasn’t a book for me.
Clap When You Land follows two girls – Camino, who lives in the Dominican Republic and Yahaira, who lives in New York City. After their father’s plane crashes they have to deal with grief, and their father’s secrets, which also includes the one about them existing and being sisters.
There’s a lot to love in this book and I am sure it will be well-loved by others, and I am glad it will. I think Acevedo is a good writer and I do enjoy her free verse poetry a lot on a technical level.
I think this book shines when it comes to tackling some issues that are not in the front – there were lovely musings on culture, on feeling like you’re from a place which you have never visited before, about being an immigrant, and about community. I absolutely LOVED those parts and found myself really enjoying them. I wish this book focused more on that, because I would have loved it so much more. The book doesn’t set out to tackle these issues head-on, but they remain a very important, essential part of the bigger narrative and I really appreciated the way Acevedo handled that, and interwove with the story that she was aiming to tell. I loved reading Acevedo’s afterword where she discussed why she wanted to write this story about this plane crash and I think it frames really well these parts that I am referring to in the actual text.
This book also had a very lovely, soft f/f relationship and I think it was also done really well. I enjoy contemporaries where we get these already well-established relationships and I really enjoyed Yahaira and her girlfriend’s relationship.
Unfortunately, this one just did not work for me. I find that this kind of style is very unsuited for the scope of this story, and it left me feeling really unsatisfied. There are a lot of really complex issues here, and I feel that because this was told in free verse, I did not get the nuance and the depth that this story necessitates.
I found that the grief the girls felt did not translate in the text at all, nor did their really conflicted and complex feelings about their relationships with their father and each other. It just felt like the book did not go as deep as I wanted it to because it was limited in its format.
I also found that the girls’ voices weren’t differentiated enough – it’s a dual perspective, but it was very hard to guess who is who based on just their voices, they read too similarly, which also kind of did not allow me to get attached to either of them or to actually get a grip on them as characters.
Finally, this is an issue I had with Acevedo’s previous book too, but I found the pace so uneven and the book really dragged for me, which is a feat for a novel in verse that reads quickly. The story got so repetitive and it rehashed the same sentiments over and over, and I think it dragged on unnecessarily and could have packed a bigger punch if it was shorter.
This one just was not for me, and I had a lot of issues with it. However, I would still recommend you check this one out if you’re interested because a lot of my dislike for the book comes from the format and for reasons that are related to the kind of reader I am.
I would love to hear from you! Have you read this one or any of Acevedo’s previous novels? I would love to hear your thoughts on either of them.
In the meantime, happy reading
*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.
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