I enjoyed reading Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire on High so much earlier this year, I immediately put her other book, Clap When You Land (Harper Teen, 2020), on my TBR. And on the last trip I made to my library in its old building, even though I already had a huge stack of books to read, I grabbed this one as well – and I actually did get to finish it before the new library opened up! (It opens Saturday! We’ll wait and go Monday, when there are fewer people. We’re so excited!)
Camino lives in New York City with her parents. Her father goes back home to the Dominican Republic every summer for business; Camino’s relationship with him hasn’t been good for the past year, ever since she discovered his secret. And it’s just after he’s left for one of these summer trips that Camino receives the terrible news: her father’s plane has crashed, and everyone is presumed dead.
In the Dominican Republic, Yahaira, another teen girl, is also receiving the devastating news of her father’s death in the same plane crash. Her life has always been on the edge; she lives with her aunt, and her American father supports them and makes what few comforts they have possible. And now, with his loss, Yahaira’s entire future has become uncertain.
In time, the two girls discover the truth: the existence of one another, the fact that they shared a father, and the complicated meaning behind all of it.
Told as a dual narrative in verse, Clap When You Land is deeply emotional. Camino is far from privileged – her parents work incredibly hard for everything they have, and they’re nowhere close to rich – but compared to the poverty that Yahaira and her aunt are surrounded by, she’s practically a princess. Yahaira is tough; she’s had to be, growing up in a place where tourists visit and take from and never think about what lies outside the walls of their resorts. She’s been on the radar of the local trafficker for years, and now that the protection of her father is gone, he’s following her like a dog. Camino’s life isn’t so precarious, but she’s experienced a lot of pain and fear in her life, and she understands Yahaira better than Yahaira suspects.
This story has a lot of similarities with With the Fire on High; both books tell stories of teenage girls in difficult circumstances, fighting to improve their lives and, occasionally, just fighting to survive. The settings here were so different, though, and the style in which it was written – verse – made it so different from Fire. The two sisters’ lives are so different from each other…but then again, they’re not so different at all. The story ends in a way that wraps everything up, but it’ll still leave you wondering how everything works out once the screen goes dark.
I really enjoyed this one. It’s been a minute since I’ve read a novel written in verse, and I always enjoy that.
Visit Elizabeth Acevedo’s website here.