Monday, June 22, 2020

Clap When You Land - Elizabeth Acevedo

Summary: In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

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. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review:  I happened to start reading this on the first day of the race riots following George Floyd’s murder, and although I try to read very diverse authors on diverse topics, I was really glad I was reading this at the time I was. It made for a very poignant look at race and the complexities of human relationships in general. I believe that one of the best ways to curb hate and racism and judgment is to read about other people—the issues they face, the complexities of lives other than your own, and the introduction and immersion into other cultures and peoples and times. If you aren’t reading diverse authors and diverse stories, you are sorely missing out on not only educating yourself, but on some excellent stories and interesting people.

I feel like this book has to be judged in two ways: the story and the writing style. First off, I’m going to tackle the writing style. I first read Acevedo’s book With the Fire on High, and you can read my review of that book here. I really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed her characters and really enjoyed the female protagonist’s voice. She was sassy and smart and independent. Clap When You Land is written as a novel in verse, which means that although it looks like it’s going to be quite the undertaking to read, in reality it only took a couple of hours. I tore through that thing. I really enjoyed the organizational style during most of the book. The chapter would highlight which of the two female character’s story would be told during that chapter, and then when it would switch the chapter would switch, etc. Once the two girls ended up together, this didn’t happen anymore, however, which made things more confusing. Once I saw a name I could figure it out, but it would always start out first person and there would be a little bit of confusion for awhile. Also, I really missed the depth that comes from Acevedo’s writing in long form. Although I understand there is power in poetry and power in simplicity and brevity, it just wasn’t my jam in this situation. I have to think that were I a YA reader, I would also feel the same way. I wanted more descriptions of the situation. I think the story lent itself well to more depth and discussion, whereas there was a lot to be inferred just by the way that it is written. I know that Acevedo is an award-winning poet, but this just wasn’t my thing. For that reason, I’m giving that part of the book three stars, and I think a lot of this can be attributed to the fact that I really was looking forward to a novel like With the Fire on High, which I enjoyed so much.

Now it’s time to tackle the story. I have really enjoyed the fact that YA books are not afraid to discuss hard things these days. A father who has two different families in different countries is a tough pill to swallow for those families, and would be even more confusing and difficult since the girls were young enough that there were a lot of loose ends in their lives. The settings of place were excellent, although the Dominican Republic was given a lot more time and description than New York. I have been to the DR and I loved reading about the ocean and the vibrant colors and food, etc. Also, I’m pretty sure that when our flight landed in the DR, people clapped, which was fun to read about in this book.

I think it’s easy to paint a father with two families in a negative light. Although Acevedo wasn’t afraid to shy away from the obvious complexities in the relationships, let alone the struggles that two half sisters who have never met would experience when they found out about each other because of a tragic situation, I appreciated that she also addressed the nuanced and difficult situation that he was a good, loving father, whom a lot of people loved. He wasn’t perfect, but he was a good man trying to be a good dad and friend, family member, etc, to those around him. I think that this lent itself to a lot of thought on my part about what makes a person a good person or a bad person. It’s so easy to categorize someone one way or the other, and a man with two families might fit snugly in the category of one who can’t be trusted and one who takes advantage of people. However, people are more complex than that and judging right away without learning more about the situation or the person is a detriment to both of you. Because of this, I’m giving the story element of this book five stars.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language in this book, and there are some scary situations of stalking that, although they don’t come to fruition, are still creepy.

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