Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

A novel is written in verse. 

This novel made me tear up, not only because of the storyline but how beautifully it is crafted. Acevedo weaves together the story of two sisters: Camino Rios who, lives in The Dominican Republic, and Yahaira Rios, who lives in New York. When their father is tragically killed in a plane crash, the sisters discover their father has been living a double life, a life he shares with two different families. The lives of the daughters are completely different from one another. Camino’s mother has died, and she lives with her aunt Tia, a woman who “has seen death & illness & hurt/ but never forgets how to smile or tell a dirty joke” (pg 60). Camino plans to attend an international school and one day go to a university in the US to become a doctor. In the meantime, she has to navigate a world where most young women her age become pregnant or get forced into prostitution. So far. Camino has been safe from this fate because since she was thirteen, her father has “paid ElCero to leave [her] alone” (pg.36) (El Cero “recruits” girls to work as sex workers). And now that her father has died, she is a target.

Yahaira, on the other hand, lives in New York with her mother. She attends private school, plays chess, and has a loving girlfriend. She and her mother own their apartment “where there is a small courtyard out back/where [they hold] summer barbecues for the family and neighbors” (pg. 129).

The tragedy of their father’s death forces the girls to accept their father’s actions and decide whether or not they want to accept each other as family.

Acevedo alternates point of view in each chapter in such a way that makes the reader empathize with both characters. We can’t help but hope the young women truly become sisters in every sense of the word. 

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