Year of Publication: 2020
Genre: Realistic Fiction (Young Adult)
Format (How I Read It): Hardcover
In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
“You can’t run from what hurts you,
or like a dog smelling fear,
that grief will just keep chasing with ever-sharp teeth.”
Themes: Family. Womanhood. Sisterhood. Home. Grief/loss. Trust.
Character Development: I see why this book had a dual POV so that we could see the similarities between each estranged sister and how, although their lives were very different, they also mirrored each other in many ways. However, the dual POV also made me feel like I never fully got to know either girl well enough to see their full growth. If we had gotten enough time with both girls, the book would have been way too long, so it was kind of a lose-lose situation. Also, I thought the minor characters didn’t feel totally real and were more like archetypes that were simply there to serve a role in the plot and not fully exist as complete characters.
“…I pour my thick guilt
into the water as well. The patron saint of the ocean
is known for containing many parts of herself:
she is a nurturer, but she is also a ferocious defender.
& so I remember that to walk this world
you must be kind but also fierce.”
Plot/Pacing: I thought the pacing in this story was off. It was slow and difficult to get into at first, and I wished the girls had gotten to spend more time together during the story (or at least spent more time knowing about each other). Their first meeting happened too late in the story for me. Also, as I said before, I get the purpose of the dual POV and how it was meant to show how the girls’ lives mirrored each other in many ways, but it also made the story feel really repetitive at times. It just kind of meandered and it didn’t feel very satisfying in the end. The overall concept of the plot was interesting though!
Writing Style: This book was written in verse and the poetry was absolutely beautiful (the writing style was definitely the strongest part of this book for me). However, the voices of the two narrators were often too similar, which could be a little confusing at times. I like that the similarity in their voices showed how similar they were as people, but, again, the issue is that it makes the story feel redundant and repetitive at times. I believe the audiobook version of this book has two narrators (one for each character), so that would probably help with this issue!
“What are arms in the water if not wings?
I slice through the liquid sky.
Push the water behind me.”
“Bingeability”: Moderate. The chapters are short and you can read it pretty quickly since it’s written in verse, but the plot isn’t always super engaging.
Emotional Investment: Moderate. You want everything to work out in the end, but you never get to know the characters well enough to be fully invested.
Windows and Mirrors: Dominican Republic. NYC. Loss of parent. Double life.
“Some things continue forever. Maybe anger is like a river,
maybe it crumbles everything around it, maybe it hides
so many skeletons beneath the rolling surface.”
Overall Thoughts: I really wanted to love this one as much as I loved The Poet X and With the Fire on High, but it just didn’t come together for me. It felt a little disjointed and all over the place, and I never really felt a strong connection to the story or the characters. That being said, it was still beautifully written and I did enjoy it overall. I just didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as Acevedo’s first two books. Also, just a warning that this story involves a fatal plane crash, which I found difficult to read about due to my fear of flying. It’s not a debilitating fear by any means, but it’s something I try not to think about too much and therefore it was difficult to read about. There is a character in this book named Zoila (she’s the mother of Yahaira, the girl being raised in NYC), and I actually think this book would be really interesting if it were written as an adult novel from Zoila’s perspective. Realizing the man she loved was living a double life, keeping this to herself to protect her daughter, knowing her husband’s other daughter isn’t to blame but struggling to find it in her heart to support her… I think it would be a really interesting story.
“Papi was a man split in two,
playing a game against himself.
But the problem with that
is that in order to win, you also always lose.”
Recommendation: Although it wasn’t my favorite book, it was still enjoyable and worth reading! I’d recommend it for readers age 13 and up. Trigger warnings: Sexual assault. Cheating. Plane crash.
Thank you for reading my review! Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve read this one or have any questions about it, and keep an eye out for my next review!