Clap When You Land

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
Clap When You Land Book Poster Image
Moving novel in verse about grief, family, and forgiveness.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Based on Dominican tradition of clapping when a plane safely lands at its destination. Dedicated to lives lost on American Airlines flight 587, which was headed to the Dominican Republic and crashed in Queens, New York, in 2001.

Positive Messages

Communication, compassion, empathy, love, family, and forgiveness are important themes. The book gets its title from the Dominican tradition of clapping when a plane safely lands at its destination.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many strong, diverse characters in terms of race and sexual orientation. Yahaira is a lesbian, and her girlfriend is African American. Camino's best friend is Haitian. Acevedo's characters have their flaws, but they learn the power of communication, love, and forgiveness. 

Violence

Delicately handles the death of a parent, a plane crash, stalking, sexual harassment, sexual assault. A man puts his hand up Yahaira's skirt and touches her inappropriately on the subway. A man known as El Cero stalks, harasses, eventually assaults Camino. He repeatedly tries to get Camino to become a sex worker.

Sex

Girlfriends kiss. 

Language

Characters use variations of "ass," "f--k," "s--t," "hell," and "bitch." Some insults in Spanish as well.

Consumerism

Mentions differences between life in the United States and in the Dominican Republic. Camino and her aunt rely on the money Papi sends to live comfortably in the Dominican Republic. Camino wonders if she'll be able to pay the tuition fees for her school after Papi's death. Yahaira and her mom receive $500,000 after Papi's plane crash, and many relatives start asking for money.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief mentions of cigars, beer, Johnnie Walker, rum, whiskey. Camino sometimes smokes cigars, and Yahaira tries it once.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo (The Poet X), is a moving novel in verse about two half-sisters who find out about each other after their dad dies in a plane crash. The title is based on the Dominican tradition of clapping when a plane safely lands at its destination, and the book is dedicated to the lives lost on American Airlines flight 587, which was headed to the Dominican Republic and crashed in Queens, New York, in 2001. The story delicately handles the death of a parent, a plane crash, stalking, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. Yahaira is a lesbian, and her girlfriend is African American. Camino's best friend is Haitian. Girlfriends kiss during the story, and characters use variations of "ass," "f--k," "s--t," "hell," and "bitch." There are some insults in Spanish, plus brief mentions of cigars, beer, Johnnie Walker, rum, and whiskey.

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What's the story?

In CLAP WHEN YOU LAND, Camino Rios can't wait for her dad's plane to land, but when she arrives at the airport, there's no sign of him, and she doesn't know yet why everyone there is crying. At the same time in New York City, Yahaira Rios learns that her dad's plane has crashed on the way to the Dominican Republic. Neither girl knows about the other, but their lives are forever changed as family secrets start to unravel, and they realize there's more to their beloved Papi than they knew.

Is it any good?

Elizabeth Acevedo's moving novel in verse powerfully explores grief, complicated family relationships, and forgiveness, making it a must-read for teens. Some readers might not be familiar with or remember the American Airlines flight 587 tragedy, but Acevedo's story reflects the pain, anguish, and heartbreak that was felt throughout the Dominican community. Clap When You Land brilliantly alternates between the girls' perspectives and with such distinct voices that by the time the girls are together in the Dominican Republic, there's no longer a need to label each chapter other than by the number of days since Papi's tragic death.

Acevedo delicately handles tough topics such as the loss of a parent and sexual assault, and her deliberate placement of words on the page emphasizes Camino's and Yahaira's emotions. As the girls unravel Papi's secrets, teens will see the importance of communication, compassion, and empathy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the various kinds of diversity in Clap When You Land. Why are diverse representations important in children's and young adult literature?

  • Why do you think the author chose to write this story as a novel in verse? Was it easier or harder for you read in this form? How would the book have been different if it had been written in prose?

  • How does this story compare to other books that deal with grief? What others have you read?

  • How do the characters demonstrate communication, compassion, and empathy? Why are these important character strengths? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories and books about grief

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