Review of Clap When You Land

Clap When You Land
by Elizabeth Acevedo
High School    Quill Tree/HarperCollins    422 pp.    g
5/20    978-0-06-288276-9    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-288278-3    $11.99

In this sharp and compelling verse novel (a 2020 Boston Globe–Horn Book honoree), sixteen-year-old Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and dreams of medical school. Sixteen-year-old Yahaira Rios is a native New Yorker who plays competitive chess. Although the two girls share a last name, they are strangers. But after flight 1112 from New York City to the Dominican Republic crashes with the man they each called Papi on board, Camino and Yahaira learn of each other’s existence. In two distinct voices, Acevedo (The Poet X, rev. 3/18; With the Fire on High, rev. 5/19) explores the rich inner lives of the sudden half-sisters as they grapple with their ­complicated feelings about their father and the secrets he kept. Yahaira narrates in stirring non-rhyming couplets; Camino in intense three-line stanzas. Moving toward their inevitable meeting, Yahaira feels like “a spool of thread / that’s been dropped to the ground…rolling undone / from the truth of this thing,” while Camino wonders, “If I find her / would I find a breathing piece / of myself I had not known / was missing?” An author’s note further explains the title of and inspiration for the novel, which was influenced by the tragic crash of flight AA587 out of New York that killed more than 260 people, most of them of Dominican descent, shortly after September 11, 2001.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jennifer Hubert Swan

Jennifer Hubert Swan is the library department chair and upper school librarian at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

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