Review: Clap When You Land

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Carmino Rios counts down the days until her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But when she arrived at the airport, she is faced with news of his death. In New York, Yahaira Rios is called out of class, where she is informed of her father, her once hero, has died in a plane crash. Separated by their father’s secret, two girls, miles away from each other, must face a new reality together. 

The life of Camino and Yahaira is torn wide open when their father dies in a flight crash and, in preparation for his funeral, reveals sisters who hadn’t known the other had existed. Their father’s secret dangles over them as they’re left with the aftermath. Both desperate and confused about the man they called Dad, his secret burrows deep under and reveals more about themselves than they could ever imagine. Acevedo breathes life into these sisters so effortlessly. Carmino only ever sees her father for a few months of the year, living her life in the Dominican Republic with her tita, going to school and evading watchful eyes who are eager to get their hands on her now that her father is gone. Yahaira has been distant from her father for the past year. The man who taught her chess was not the man she thought he was. They loved him in their own way and in their grief; could they ever forgive him? 

Real events inspire Acevedo’s story: November 2001, a flight scheduled to leave for Santa Domingo crashed, taking 260 lives, a majority of the death being of Dominican descent. This story is about “forgotten” tragedies, out of sight and mind by the majority public but has a significant effect on communities it did affect. Acevedo brings the community and its culture to life and builds a community that was beautiful to read. I loved the contrast in how each communal side reacted in the wake of their father’s death. Acevedo navigates grief with ease in each girls’ perspective; you’ll feel for the struggle of Carmino and Yahaira. And you’ll root for the sisters as they realise what they’re missing, and while they can’t change their father’s past, they can work on their future together.

Alternating between the girls’ perspectives with such emotion and clarity,  Acevedo returns with a brilliant new story. Clap When You Land is a moving novel in verse that explores grief, family and forgiveness in such a concise way, making it a must-read.


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