In Darkness, by Nick Lake (2012)

Genre: Speculative Fiction
Interest Level: 15-adult
In DarknessThis title won the 2013 Printz award for the best in young adult fiction, and Kirkus describes it as “a dark journey well worth taking.” I think I agree – it’s dark, I’m glad I read it, and I won’t forget this story. But it was a dark journey indeed. Shorty is about 15 years old and dying, trapped in the rubble of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He was in his hospital bed, after being hit in a gang shootout on the streets of Cite Soleil, a slum within Port-au-Prince and one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the entire western hemisphere. Parallelling Shorty’s story is that of Toussaint l’Ouverture, the Haitian hero who led the country’s slaves to freedom during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte. Lake alternates between the two narratives, and then intertwines them so they are inextricable. Toussaint’s history is real, and Shorty’s is fiction. But the two are painfully similar, showing how little has changed for the people of Haiti. I felt myself getting lost in the mire of Shorty’s despairing life, and while the story ultimately ends in hope, I still finished lower than I started. That’s not what I want from my fiction, but this is a heartbreaking tale that leaves you changed. Stick with it as it becomes truly engrossing, despite the disturbing nature of the story.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11451112

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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