‘Clap When You Land’ by Elizabeth Acevedo (KS4+)

Clap When You Land follows Yahaira and Camino, two half-siblings from contrasting worlds who are unware that the other exists until the death of their father and carefully kept secrets begin to surface.

The story is a powerful exploration of the rawness and complexity of loss within a family in all its guises: feelings of confusion and uncertainty, betrayal and anger. I really liked how Acevedo developed Yahaira’s and Camino’s relationship with their ‘Papi’ which although infinitely close and loving, reveals itself more and more as the plot unravels as not without its flaws and challenges. Alongside coping with their grief and the subsequent ramifications emotionally and for Camino, on a practical level too, both face tribulations and fears everyday within their own lives. Here Acevedo deftly weaves in important topics such as race, privilege, inequality and poverty, sexuality, gender expectations, harassment. Acevedo’s signature verse might be feel a little odd at first if unfamiliar with the style but I felt it added to pacing and the vividness and originality of each voice. I admired Yahaira’s self-belief and determination, Camino’s strength and resilience: how she found comfort and solace in nature (this really reminded me of Kya in Where The Crawdads Sing). I also liked learning more about Dominican culture.

It is a book that strays from the obvious and challenges your thinking. I love the fact that the sisters didn’t just meet up and – spoiler – hit it off – or have a ‘happily ever after’ moment. Yet it is a book full of compassion, tenderness and hope, displayed in small acts of kindness (the part about the plants at the end had me in tears) and life’s daily miracles.

Ms Harrison

Check out Acevedo’s novel The Poet X, winner of the 2018 National Book Award and a short clip of her performing.

‘Clap When You Land’ is very different to any book I’ve ever read before. It’s very emotive with a storyline that is moving too. What I like the most was the commemoration and what inspired the author to write the book. I also really liked the girl power towards the end! It is a really enjoyable read.

Laura Londono Duque

I read it in one day, intrigued by the title as this is exactly what us Irish emigrees do on return via plane, to visit the old country (especially if you’re from where my family are from in the far west).

I loved the style, the space to breath provided by the poetry like layout. I could hear what was taking place in between what the author had written. I am no literary critic, but I would recommend this book and its story.

Ms O’Malley

You’re going to need to scoop me off the floor because this has drained my emotions! I devoured this book in 3 days (which is quick, even for me) and I found it so hard to put down. I found excuses to pick it back up again, to avoid other tasks so I could find out what happened next. Camino and Yahaira are half-sisters who live in different countries and know nothing of each other. When their father dies in a plane crash, the girls learn of each other and their families’ betrayal of the truth and they must overcome their loss and come to terms with their gain.

I did not realise that this book was in verse when I ordered it and I didn’t know how I would get on with it considering I’ve not read a book in verse before. Oddly, I think this actually works better than it would do if it was written like a traditional book. The emotions come through more, you are in the rhythm of thought of the characters and it is executed perfectly.

Ms Carter-Dunn