Clap When You Land

NBA, Printz and Carnegie Medal-winner Elizabeth Acevedo's second novel-in-verse, Clap When You Land, is inspired by and pays tribute to "the lives lost on American Airlines flight 587," which crashed in Queens, N.Y., in 2001 on its way to the Dominican Republic. Diving deep into the lives of two teens who have lost their father in a plane crash, Acevedo (The Poet X) uses her immense skill to describe their lush, complicated inner worlds.

Through an apprenticeship with her tía, 16-year-old Camino discovers that "curing is in [her] blood." Though she doesn't tell anyone, Camino knows she will join the father she adores in the U.S., to attend medical school. But the day he is supposed to come home for the summer to the Dominican Republic, his plane crashes: the word "accident" is "a gnashing jaw,/ a bottomless belly," a "shark-toothed truth." Yahaira, who lives in Upper Manhattan, learned a year ago that her father broke her trust. Before, he had been her everything. Now, they don't speak. But Yahaira's father was on that flight to the Dominican Republic: "Papi/ is/ dead." The finality of this phrase is driven home by an extended blank space between each word.

Acevedo's poetry at one moment envelops readers through vibrant description, and the next pierces them with all-too-effective phrases: "The thought of speaking/ makes me want to/ uncarve myself from this skin." Her quick, penetrating verse is lean and decisive, her blank spaces expertly planned moments of held breath. Finishing the book is not unlike touching ground again after a flight. And, "when you touch down on this soil, you must clap when you land./ Gracias a Dios. Entiendes?" --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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