In Darkness

In Darkness
Author(s)
Genre(s)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
January 03, 2012
ISBN
1599907437
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In darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One: I am alive. Two: there is no two. In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake a boy is trapped beneath the rubble of a ruined hospital: thirsty, terrified and alone. 'Shorty' is a child of the slums, a teenage boy who has seen enough violence to last a lifetime, and who has been inexorably drawn into the world of the gangsters who rule Site Soleil: men who dole out money with one hand and death with the other. But Shorty has a secret: a flame of revenge that blazes inside him and a burning wish to find the twin sister he lost five years ago. And he is marked. Marked in a way that links him with Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Haitian rebel who two-hundred years ago led the slave revolt and faced down Napoleon to force the French out of Haiti. As he grows weaker, Shorty relives the journey that took him to the hospital, a bullet wound in his arm. In his visions and memories he hopes to find the strength to survive, and perhaps then Toussaint can find a way to be free ...

Editor review

1 review
A Powerful Story That Will Stay With You
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
The 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti has trapped fifteen-year-old gangster Shorty under the rubble in the hospital where he has been recovering from a gunshot. As his hope for survival slowly fades, he maintains his sanity by telling his life story to the darkness that surrounds him.

This plot would be enough to hook me, but author Nick Lake makes IN DARKNESS more compelling by alternating Shorty's story with a third person account of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Haitian slave who led a successful revolution against the French in the late 18th century. It is a powerful juxtaposition to pair Toussaint's hope and love for his beautiful nation and Shorty's despair in the slums of Port au Prince. Touissant's life is fascinating; as an older, unattractive, and uneducated slave, he is not the typical hero. Yet he accomplishes the seemingly impossible with wisdom and grace.

As much as I enjoyed learning more about Toussaint L'Ouverture, I found myself looking forward to Shorty's chapters. His plot feels so immediate and vital. The transformation of the character of Shorty is very clever. Initially, he comes across as an innocent victim of the earthquake, then his story slowly unfolds and the reader learns about the terrible things he has done. Just when he borders on unsympathetic, Lake deftly reminds the reader that there are few options available to youths in the slums and that Shorty manages to keep his humanity. Shorty describes his best friend, saying, "Sometimes I'd look at him and it was like he'd forgotten to put the shutters over his eyes, and I'd see right down to his soul, and see how much he was hurting. He was unprotected, is the best way I can say it. His manman died when he was little, and there was nothing about him that could keep bad stuff out." At times it is difficult to remember that the characters are children, but that is the power of IN DARKNESS; the reality hits the reader unexpectedly.

We need more young adult literature about Haiti. This is a country that is frequently in the news for tragedies, yet there is a dearth of narratives that encourage a personal connection with the people being affected. When teaching a unit on Haitian immigration to Bahamian students, we read Frances Temple's TASTE OF SALT, but that was the only fiction text that was available for middle school readers. IN DARKNESS is for older readers; the violence is explicit and the dead-end lives of the residents of the Site Soley slums weigh heavily on the reader. The publication of Lake's novel will hopefully only be the beginning of a wave of novels informing readers about life in modern Haiti.

Read more of my reviews at www.bookchomper.blogspot.com.
Good Points
Toussaint L'Ouverture is a fascinating historical figure.
The contrast of history and modern life is jarring and well-done.
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