Title: Clap When You Land
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Publication Date: May 2020
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: YA, fiction, poetry, queer lit
This is a beautifully written story presented as poetry, which I found rather refreshing (though that could be because I’ve been reading dense theory for a while). It was a nuanced exploration of cultural differences and the manifestations of grief. Putting Clap When You Land in poetry format gave Acevedo the benefit of taking more liberty in beautiful ways to depict these themes, as well as showcase her skills as a poet.
That said, I wouldn’t say there was a lot left to be desired, but I wish there were a few things more than what was given. I wish Acevedo went a little more into the lives of Camino and Yahaira, giving us more than the couple of months we get to know them on the pages. In other words, Camino and Yahaira have such interesting stories that are begging for more attention. Also, while presenting two perspectives allowed for the incredible dive into cultural differences between the United States and the Dominican Republic, I felt that more could have been done to develop the grief of the two protagonists. After a while, it started reading the same and made the story drag a little.
The ending felt a little too “tidy,” for a lack of a better word (though Dre’s present for Camino was too sweet), but in some ways, it feels like the deserved ending for our two protagonists who had such heavy weight burdening their hearts.
Oh, and a random side note. Like so many other books I’ve read, I love when authors unapologetically use and not italicize non-English words, phrases, and sentences.
Content Warning: death (parent), sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexism, implied trafficking, brief mention of antiblackness, pedophilia
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April 2021: Reading Wrapup
Total books: 4
*quick note: i try my best to list trigger warnings for the books i talk about. if i tw some form of oppression (racism, homophobia, etc.), the assumption is always that these things are challenged in the text, and not that the author is expressing racist views. if a book does perpetuate racist ideas, i will indicate that directly. thanks!*
*don’t mind me finally posting my april wrapup in the middle of june it’s not because i forgot or anything leave me alone*
1. The King of Crows by Libba Bray
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Summary: (tw period-typical racism, homophobia, and sexism + tw body horror, grief, past abuse & sexual assault, ptsd, gore, internalized acephobia, animal death)
The final book in the Diviners series, an urban horror fantasy set in 1920s New York, so not much I can say without spoiling the entire series. In this book, hungry ghosts are taking over the country and prospects are looking bleak for the Diviners squad as they’re forced to split into groups and go on the run in order to hone their skills and prepare for their final battle with the man in the stovepipe hat... and the stakes have never been higher.
Thoughts: I have to be careful not to spoil anything here because again, last book in the series, though if you have read The King of Crows or just don’t care about spoilers you can read my full Goodreads review here.
That said, to give a condensed version, while I think this was unfortunately the weakest book in the series for sure (sorry), I really enjoyed this! The characters all developed really beautifully, especially Evie, Theta, Isaiah, and Ling, even if I thought some were deserving of a little more attention than they got, I became very emotional several times while reading this. (review continued under the cut)
The biggest problem of this book was definitely the pacing since I think it did take a little too long to get things going whereas other plotlines were a bit rushed *cough* Sam’s rescue *cough*, and I had a similar issue with it that I did with BTDBY, in that focusing too much on all the characters meant that we didn’t quite get enough time to spend with any of them. But still Libba Bray more than made up for it with so many things! Her writing is beautiful as ever, there were some really good and terrifying scenes, and UGH the way all the themes she’s been building throughout the series come together is just so powerful.
And as a side note, apparently a lot of people didn’t like the main climax of this book but I thought it was incredible?? The imagery, the emotions?? Some of her best work apart from the climax of Lair of Dreams?? Anyway. Cannot recommend this series more highly please read it omg.
2. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Summary: (tw explicit nsfw content, past abuse, ableism)
*read for my romance lit class*
This is a contemporary romance novel following Chloe Brown, eldest of her three sisters, a strict no-nonsense planner and a social recluse who, after a near-death experience, decides that it’s time for her to move out of her parents’ house and make her to-do list for “getting a life.” But even though she wants to be bold and a risk-taker, Chloe isn’t sure how to go about doing things like go camping and have a drunken night out or ride a motorcycle.
Thankfully, there’s her new apartment building’s superintendent, Red, and Chloe recruits him to help her cross the items off her “get a life” bucket list. She and Red don’t like each other very much, but soon a bond starts to form between them as Chloe starts to understand what lies beneath Red’s tough bad boy persona.
Thoughts: I'm not sure I have much to say on this book--romance and contemporary aren’t my favourite genres, but while this wasn’t necessarily mind-blowing and I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as everyone else seemed to, this was still super cute and I had a blast listening to it! I loved the banter between Chloe and Red, the slow buildup of their romance, and the typically corny but very delightful romcom shenanigans they got up to.
Although this was mostly fluff, though, there were still some nuanced discussions that I thought were very well-handled. I really liked the discussion of ableism, disability, and chronic pain, as well as Hibbert’s tackling of topics like male mental health and abuse. It’s not often that I see books, especially romance books, discuss the fact that men can also be abused in relationships and that that abuse can be deeply traumatic, so I really appreciated it taking such an important role in the story here. So, not mind-blowing or something I really found myself thinking about after I finished reading, but very much worth the read, and fun enough for me to want to give the other books in the Brown Sisters trilogy a shot.
3. How to be Ace: Memories of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Summary: (tw internalized acephobia/struggles with sexuality, ocd)
This is an informative graphic memoir dealing with author Rebecca Burgess’s complicated relationship toward their romantic orientation and sexuality while growing up and going through the ups and downs of university life, culminating in their discovery of asexuality, and explores how those experiences intersected with their mental health and OCD.
Thoughts: Really the summary says it all. This was a heartwarming, educational, and incredibly important memoir that deals with author/artist Rebecca Burgess's experiences with OCD and discovering their asexual identity. The book focuses on the author's ambivalent feelings toward romance and sex, and explains how they began to fear that they were broken as they grew older due to the pressures of an amatonormative society, and although my own journey toward discovering my asexuality was different, I still related to a lot of the fears and anxieties Rebecca voiced.
I think the reason I gave this a lower rating is that I thought a lot of events were breezed through much too quickly when I would have preferred to sit in the moment of important experiences of the author's life, and sometimes the timeline of the comic got a little jumbled. I wasn't sure how much I "got to know" Burgess over the course of the book, and I would have preferred something a little more intimate, as feeling like I get closer to the author is . A lot of the comics were in same vein of educational/expressive comics I see regularly on Tumblr. That isn't remotely a bad thing, and obviously Burgess isn't obligated to share any personal information they don't want to, it's just not quite what I was expecting.
I still cannot underestimate the importance of books like this one and I truly hope it gets a wide readership. There is so little understanding of queer identities in popular culture, even more so for queer minorities like ace, bi, pan, intersex people etc, and that lack of education and representation does nothing but hurt young queer people. Burgess provides a really excellent breakdown of asexuality and, as the title suggests, what it is like to grow up as an asexual person in an amatonormative world. I would highly recommend this book as an educational tool for young/new queer people trying to figure out their identities, or to allies who want to have a better understanding of their aspec loved ones.
4. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Summary: (tw grief, death of a parent, stalking, colorism, attempted sexual assault)
This is a YA contemporary written in verse. We follow two girls, Yahaira and Camino, who live in New York and the Dominican Republic, respectively, with their single mom/aunt as their dad travels for work. But the girls’ lives are shattered when their father dies in a plane crash to the Dominican Republic, even more so when his death reveals that they are actually half-sisters, and their their father had a secret life and family in another country they never knew about. As their girls’ lives collide, they must find hope and meaning in their altered lives as they reshape their notion of what family means.
Thoughts: So apparently this is the month of me having unpopular opinions, because most people liked Acevedo’s other poetry book, The Poet X, better than this one. And I don’t know, I mean... I really liked The Poet X and I thought it was beautifully written, but it didn’t stay with me the way Clap When You Land did, because ohhh I loved this book so much.
Again, Acevedo’s writing is gorgeous and I think her character work really shines through here. I loved Camino and Yahaira so much, and although their voices might have felt a little too similar at times (I admit there were moments I forgot who was narrating even in the audiobook, so I understand why some people might have found that frustrating), that didn’t change how much this book struck a chord in me. This was a beautiful meditation on sisterhood, grief, Latinx identity, and family. The depiction of family was definitely my favourite thing about this book and I just liked it so much more than in The Poet X.
The thing is, while there was nothing necessariy wrong with the depiction of family in The Poet X, it wasn’t anything really new. It wasn’t something I hadn’t already seen before, especially for a Latinx family. Even though it was done pretty well, I guess, in hindsight I’m just a bit tired of seeing Latinx families being shown the exact way in media - always the rebellious teenage daughter, the lazy beaten-down father, and of course the uber-Catholic mother who is emotionally abusive but at the end of a day a complicated person who loves her child. And don’t forget the same old scene where the mother tears up her daughter’s diary/notebook! What a staple! And I mean... I guess this is the reality for a lot of Latinx families and second-generation kids, but it’s tiring when that’s pretty much the only Latinx representation you get and it’s simply not something you can relate to.
So maybe that’s why this book meant so much to me. I loved how it showed all the ways family is hard because... yeah, it is, but at the end of the day, Yahaira and Camino had guardians who were flawed, but only in a way that made sense to their circumstances. They loved their girls more than anything and supported them no matter what, and it just meant so much to me to actually see supporting, loving Latinx parents for a change. I loved this book, I loved the characters, and this was simply wonderful from start to finish. I haven’t read With the Fire on High yet, but for now this is definitely my favourite Elizabeth Acevedo book.
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