**Minor Spoilers (details in this review can be found in some summaries of the book, but they are not actually revealed to readers until later in the story. There is more emphasis on emotion than plot structure in the book, so even if you know what will happen, Acevedo’s words are powerful.)
One man’s secrets are revealed with his death, upending the lives of two girls, living continents apart. Camino and Yahaira must deal with their grief and a new-found family in the book Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo.
I did not read any reviews or summaries before starting this book, so it was a complete surprise for me, which I enjoyed. I was shocked to discover that it was written as poetry! The style is so unique, especially in the young adult genre. The poetry worked well to convey different streams of thought. Readers get to be in the characters’ heads as they receive new information, process it, make a decision, or think about something in the past.
The thought process felt incredibly realistic. However, due to the poetry, there was less focus on plot. Not as much happened in this book as would usually happen in a book of the same size. Although there is a plot, the characters’ thoughts and feelings are emphasized more. I liked how instead of just reading a story, I felt like I was getting the full characters. Their interests, relationships, pasts, and dreams were provided, even if a detail was not relevant to the plot.
Camino and Yahaira have extremely different lives and personalities. Watching them deal
with their grief was extremely emotional and sad. Overall, this book does have a more sad tone. The process of grief is shown really well, and I found myself empathizing with the characters over things I had never experienced. The grief was nuanced, and it contained complexities. The two main characters were sad due to the loss of someone but also angry and confused at the same person. This book showed that even if you think you know a person, how you perceive them is just one aspect of their identity. Both Camino and Yahaira grew up with different versions of the same person. Although they both grieved for their father, the information revealed by his death made them realize that they did not really know him.
This story also dealt with the complexity of family. More family is usually a good thing. Secret relationships are usually not. But what happens when these two things are combined? For Camino and Yahaira, it was a paradox. Should they be excited to suddenly have a sister, or angry at their father for marrying twice? Finding this balance was tricky, but it was interesting to see how each girl processed it.
Finally, it was really interesting having two points of view that were so different. I loved going from the setting of New York to the Dominican Republic and reading about the separate lives each girl lived. Camino’s life in the Dominican Republic was especially interesting because I am unfamiliar with the culture and way of life of her country.
This was the first book I read by Elizabeth Acevedo, though her other books: With the Fire on High and Poet X have been on my TBR for a long time. After this one, I really look forward to reading her other books!