By Elizabeth Acevedo
Acevedo is back to her roots with her next verse novel, Clap When You Land and after her Odyssey (and Printz Honor) winning title The Poet X, I knew I would not want to experience this title in any way other than through audiobook. This particular novel is two points-of-view, Camino and Yahaira, and instead of Acevedo reading both parts herself, this also has dual narrators--Acevedo and Melania-Luisa Marte. I loved this decision!
This is the story of two girls finding out that their father led two lives--one in the Dominican Republic and one in New York City. Every year he spent the summer months in the Dominican Republic and the remainder of the year in New York City, with each daughter believing he was away for business. He is one of passengers on the American Airlines flight 587 that crashes into ocean with no survivors. After the crash and his death, the girls are left to pick up the pieces of their lives and figure out how to grieve, while continuing to move forward--especially when they learn about each other's existence.
Acevedo's writing is exquisite--the raw emotion and heartbreak breathes off the page. The flow of the story is well paced, leaving moments for readers to catch their breath interspersed in moments of heartbreak, sadness, and moments that infuriate you. The ebbs and flows of this story will at times break you but just when you think you cannot bare anymore, you are left with a sense of hope to continue forward.
The audiobook production brings another level to this book, not just because Acevedo herself narrates half this book but because her writing begs to be performed. Her writing is magical and lyrical and her slam poetry background adds such richness and depth to the production. Marte holds her own too--she is not overshadowed by Acevedo, bringing as much life and depth to Camino as Acevedo does to Yahaira. The moments when they needed to breathe and slow down to give the readers time to pause, they did. When the emotions are building to moments when they threaten to eclipse everything, they both allow you to feel the emotions so much so that you swear you are there with them in the sand of the Dominican Republic or the train in New York City experiencing it with the characters. The audiobook also helps those who do not read or speak Spanish have an access point into the book as a nonreader of Spanish, as it can feel challenging to grasp the meaning with out the enunciation and emphasis that they bring to the words as it helps give context. (Side note: Moments such as this always brings it home to me how those who are learning English might feel when they are only presented with English titles with no audiobooks to help them learn to read English, with not grace or help in figuring out a complex language or rude words such as you need to learn English now).
Of course Clap When You Land is focused on teen characters, but even adults will find some in this book. I appreciate the character arcs in this book, because I cringe at decisions made but I know that is me as an adult. The decisions each girl made feels age appropriate and impulsive--much like what a teen would make when faced with similar decisions. The voices of the characters do not feel inappropriate for the ages--not childish nor too sophisticated, which is often times a challenge for adult narrators voicing younger characters. While at times the both girls' voices are quite similar, I do not feel like this detracted from the audiobook in my opinion, but added to elements that even though the grew up over 1,500 miles apart, they have similarities. I highly recommend this audiobook and book overall to all readers--teens and adults alike.