Reviews for In Darkness


Booklist Reviews 2012 January #1
Shorty, 15, is in a Haitian hospital with a bullet in his arm when the walls fall down during an earthquake. As he waits for help, drinking blood to try to quench his thirst, he remembers how he got to the hospital and the haunting gang violence he witnessed in the slums: his beloved twin sister was taken; his father was chopped to pieces. His mother loved freedom-fighter Aristide, but his father did not. Shorty's present-day narrative switches back and forth with an historical plotline set in the eighteenth century, when Touissant l'Ouverture, a former slave, led Haiti in the fight for freedom, calling for justice, not vengeance, in the struggle to emancipate the slaves. The constantly shifting narratives, large cast of characters, and cultural detail may overwhelm some readers, and the unspeakable brutality is not for the fainthearted. But older readers, especially those who have seen the devastating footage of Haiti's recent earthquake, will want to read about the grim, contemporary drama and the inspiring history. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
Beneath the rubble of the recent Haiti earthquake lies a teenage boy, waiting to be rescued. He has had a bleak and violent life but draws strength from the story of the revolutionary Toussaint L'Ouverture, whose presence seems to visit him. Leisurely pacing allows Lake to develop his unforgettable characters, harrowing settings, and lay the foundation for his timely and relevant themes.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #2
"I am the voice in the dark, calling out for your help." Amid the devastation of the recent Haiti earthquake, Copyright 2012 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 November #1
A tale of two Haitis—one modern, one historic—deftly intertwine in a novel for teens and adults. Readers first meet Shorty under the rubble of the recent earthquake, as he struggles to make sense of his past, present and future. Through flashbacks, they learn of his gangster life in a dangerous Port-au-Prince slum, where he searches for his twin sister, Marguerite, after they've been separated by gang violence. In his stressed state, Shorty communes with the spirit of Toussaint l'Ouverture, leader of the slave uprising that ultimately transformed Haiti into the world's first black republic. Lake (Blood Ninja II: The Revenge of Lord Oda, 2010, etc.) adeptly alternates chapters between "Now" (post-earthquake) and "Then" (circa turn-of-the-19th century). His minimalist, poetic style reveals respect for vodou culture, as well as startling truths: "In darkness, I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One: I am alive. Two: there is no two." While the images of slavery and slum brutality are not for the faint-hearted, and Shorty's view of humanitarian workers may stir debate, readers will be inspired to learn more about Haiti's complex history. Timed for the second anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, this double-helix-of-a-story explores the nature of freedom, humanity, survival and hope. A dark journey well worth taking—engrossing, disturbing, illuminating. (author's note) (Fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 November #1

Shorty, 15, is trapped in the rubble of a hospital following the 2010 earthquake that left Haiti in ruins. As time wears on without rescue, he relives the journey that brought him to the hospital with a bullet wound, recounting his life running drugs and gunning down enemies for one of Site Solèy's most notorious gangs. In a startling but successful feat of literary imagination, Lake (the Blood Ninja series) pairs Shorty's story with that of Toussaint l'Ouverture, the 18th-century slave who led the revolt that forced out the island's French colonizers. The narrative is as disturbing (people are hacked to death, an encephalitic baby is found alive in a trash pile) as it is challenging; the book moves back and forth in time from Shorty's fictional first-person account, shot through with street slang and Creole, to Toussaint's story, told in third-person. But the portrait it reveals of a country relegated throughout history to brutality and neglect is powerful and moving, as readers come to understand that Shorty is held captive by more than just the ceiling that fell on him. Ages 14-up. (Jan.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 December

Gr 9 Up--Trapped in the rubble of Haiti's massive 2010 earthquake, teenage Shorty desperately waits for rescue. While in darkness, events of his traumatic, violent life replay in his head. He is haunted by his father's brutal murder, his twin sister's disappearance, and the armed gang activity that has been his means of survival in Site Soly (Cite Soleil), a very real and dangerous slum. As he faces death and struggles to understand the external forces that have shaped him, Shorty gradually feels the uplifting spiritual presence of revered slave liberator Toussaint L'Ouverture and draws strength and hope from the man's extraordinary life, determination, and idealism. The pervasive Haitian voodoo belief in spirit transfer empowers Shorty and connects him with Touissant across time. In alternating chapters of "Now" and "Then," Shorty's and Toussaint's stories unfold. The relentless oppression, poverty, violence, and instability of the country is vividly conveyed through Shorty's stark, graphic narrative. Toussaint's story provides historical background for the socioeconomic and political conflicts that continue today. As the author notes, he portrays the essential spirit and history of Touissant with some omissions and simplifications. For example, Touissant learned to read as a boy, and not late in life, but this factual inaccuracy does not diminish the account of his charisma and significance. The entangled actions of gangs and government, the complicated relationship between Haitians and foreign-aid organizations, and the rich mix of Creole and French patois provide insight and authenticity. A striking cast of characters, compelling tension as Shorty confronts his own death, and the reality and immediacy of Haiti's precarious existence will captivate secondary readers.--Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC

[Page 122]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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VOYA Reviews 2011 December
Shorty is a budding gang member in Haiti when the 2010 earthquake occurs, leaving him buried and not certain whether he is alive, a ghost, or a "zombi." Shorty reflects back on the events that led him to his current situation--the abduction of his twin sister, Marguerite, the murder of his father by other gang members, and his friendship with fellow gangsta Biggie. Through the use of a voudou pwen, a stone given to him by real-life disputed Haitian civil rights leader/gangster/martyr Dread Wilme, Shorty is cosmically linked to another figure right out of the history books. In a bold storytelling move ripe for reader discussion, Toussaint L'Ouverture also sees Shorty's future as he leads a slave rebellion during the Haitian Revolution In Darkness is provocative, daring, and sure to be polarizing. Lake does not shy from the graphic depiction of life in past or present Haiti. Toussaint watches as slave owners murder a baby and hack away at a dying slave; Shorty and Marguerite rescue a baby with hydro-encephalitis from the trash. Such grittiness elevates his story above and beyond more typical historical fiction and gives the events an edge not found in classroom social studies lessons. Lake says in an author's note that little in the book is made up; to him, even the supernatural elements feel real. There is little oasis to be found in the darkness. All the same, readers are sure to have a hard time looking away.--Matthew Weaver 4Q 4P M J S A/YA Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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