Elizabeth Acevedo’s novel in verse, Clap When You Land (Harper Teen 2020), sings with beauty, love, loss, and family. Told in alternating views, the novel follows two teenagers whose father is killed in plane crash – neither knowing of the other’s existence. But when the plane goes down and they must accept that their beloved Papi is dead, the secrets unravel.
Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic with her healer aunt. She’s learned the Dominican ways at her aunt’s side, and she dreams of coming to the US to study to be a doctor. Papi sends money that pays for her fancy private school and allows her and her tia to have certain luxuries, like a generator and plenty of food in the kitchen. He visits every summer, carving out those precious months just for her. She’s waiting alone at the airport for her father’s descent when she learns of the crash.
Yahaira Rios is Papi’s New York City daughter. She’s extremely skilled at chess, but she’s stopped playing. Her girlfriend, Dre, is her closest friend and sweetest love. She doesn’t understand why her father leaves every summer or why she isn’t allowed to go to the Dominican with him. She is angry with her father and doesn’t say a word when he leaves – her feelings bottled up tight inside, always the chess player even when she’s not playing the game. She’s sitting in the cafeteria when she’s called to the office and told of the crash.
And with the words “no survivors,” Papi’s two worlds, and his two beautiful daughters, collide, and the duality of his existence is made known to those who loved him most – a duality everyone but the girls already knew.
Laced with grief and grit, anger and acceptance, beauty and bitterness – this tale of two sisters who lose their father and find each other will linger on your lips like a first kiss or that first bite of a fruit in season.
Read this book.