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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 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 ... Watch the official book trailer for In Darkness


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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 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 ... Watch the official book trailer for In Darkness

30 review for In Darkness

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    “This is a work of fiction. That said, much in it is true. If you were hoping that some of the more unpleasant things you have just read were made up, then I apologise.” - Nick Lake, Author's Note 1791-1804 Toussaint L'ouverture turned his dreams of creating an independent, free black state into reality when he led the Haitian revolution. This revolution is, to this day, regarded as one of the most successful slave uprisings of all time and is the only one of its kind which led to the founding of “This is a work of fiction. That said, much in it is true. If you were hoping that some of the more unpleasant things you have just read were made up, then I apologise.” - Nick Lake, Author's Note 1791-1804 Toussaint L'ouverture turned his dreams of creating an independent, free black state into reality when he led the Haitian revolution. This revolution is, to this day, regarded as one of the most successful slave uprisings of all time and is the only one of its kind which led to the founding of a new state. The success of the revolution was felt across the globe and gave new hope to slaves and abolitionists in other countries. Its message was clear: freedom is possible. 2010 A catastrophic earthquake hits Haiti, approximately 25km from Port-au-Prince, killing over 200,000 people and having devastating effects on the lives of more than 3,000,000. Many buildings were severely damaged and some collapsed entirely, taking the lives of those nearby. Tens of thousands of bodies piled up in morgues and had to be buried in mass graves. Into this disaster, comes Nick Lake's story of a 15 year old boy who is trapped in darkness underneath the rubble. If I didn't already know that this was a Printz winner, I would have been placing bets on it because In Darkness is one sophisticated piece of young adult fiction. One that will probably go unread by most unless they get forced to read it in school which, I know from experience, drains pretty much all the goodness out of the very best books. Other than that, though, this is a particularly hard one to sell to teens. Historical fiction ain't too popular with the kids anyway and, let's face it, only the most dedicated of teen book lovers are going to go out of their way to pick up something about the Haitian earthquake. Don't mean to sound patronising to younger readers, it's just generally true. So, let me convince you? There's something people miss out on when they turn their noses up at historical novels - and that is the clever interweaving of fact and fiction to make a story which is all the more powerful because of its (perceived or otherwise) proximity to the truth. I guess this is also true of a good dystopian novel (but I could write an essay on that so I'll move on). I love a book that teaches you something you didn't know before, whilst simultaneously dragging you into a fascinating story. Lake is juggling many things here; history lessons in one hand, a survival story in the other, complex exploration of a trapped boy's mind in there somewhere too. I don't know how it all works so well... but it does. As was hopefully somewhat evident from the start of this review, the book tells two stories. One is a re-imagining of the Haitian revolution, taking us inside the mind of Toussaint L'ouverture and showing how his desire for freedom grew and developed. The other story is about "Shorty", trapped down in the darkness in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. In the dark, Shorty cannot be sure whether he is awake or dreaming; he is driven to the brink of insanity by his thirst and the heat. The only way he survives is to retreat inside his mind and recall his childhood, his mother, his sister and his hero - Toussaint L'ouverture. This is a sad, gritty tale that looks at slavery, racism, culture clashes and survival. You should be warned: it's not an easy book to read at times. There were several scenes that turned my stomach and it should be noted that this is definitely "mature YA" - I'm particularly thinking of the descriptions of violence and rape when I say this. And I mean it when I say it's sad. I'm really not much of a crier when it comes to books and movies but this one had me tearing up a couple of times. And I haven't even started in on the claustrophobia! Do I really need to say it? Small space... under rubble... complete darkness... ultimate nightmare. The only thing worse than being buried alive must be being buried alive with rats - oh yeah, there's rats. I really do applaud Nick Lake for the amount of research that must have gone into this incredible novel and I think that Printz award was very much deserved. More people need to read this.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    Teetering between 4 and 4.5. “Death will continue… There will be a steady and endless stream of the dead, filling the land under the sea that can never be filled. But this is not sad This is beautiful. The beauty of this is that when you die there will always be someone waiting, there will always be those you have lost, standing there, the curve of their back and the stance of their feet so familiar. There will always be someone there, saying: -We have waited so long. It is so good to see you. Come h Teetering between 4 and 4.5. “Death will continue… There will be a steady and endless stream of the dead, filling the land under the sea that can never be filled. But this is not sad This is beautiful. The beauty of this is that when you die there will always be someone waiting, there will always be those you have lost, standing there, the curve of their back and the stance of their feet so familiar. There will always be someone there, saying: -We have waited so long. It is so good to see you. Come here. Come here. Initial Final Page Thoughts. Woah… I can safely say I’ve never read a book like that before both in subject matter and emotions. High Points. Shorty. Marguerite.Toussaint L'Ouverture.Site Sole. One of the most original settings in any YA book I’ve read. Stories. Dirt. Vodou. Zombis. Notorious B.I.G. Voices in the darkness. Death. Hope. Friendship. Unflinching. Curses. Impeccably researched. Prophecies. Boys of cartilage and muscle and veins. History. The future. Then. Now. Always. Low Points. Even though I enjoyed (“enjoyed” isn’t really the word I’m looking for) the ‘Then’ parts and they were impeccably researched by Mr Lake, I couldn’t help my mind wandering a little. I found them interesting and beautifully written (One of my favourite quotes of the whole book was taken from one of these chapters [See top quote]) but I just wanted to get back to Shorty and his story. So really… it’s Mr Lake’s fault for creating such a brilliant character in Shorty. That’s right… his fault. *cough* Hero. Oh Shorty. I don’t want to really go into this too much because I think Shorty is the kind of character you really need to meet and get to know on your own. But my heart bled for this kid, it really did. His story isn’t an easy one to read but beneath the darkness (*groan* I’m sorry!) there is humour, faith and hope. Supporting Cast. Again, I’m not going to say much about this because of spoilers but one of the things I loved most about this book was the way that Mr Lake never asks us to forgive his characters. It may just be me, but I never got the feeling that this was a tale of redemption for any of the characters, even Shorty. It is how it is with this book; it’s real and it’s uncomfortable and problems aren’t solved. The villains have moments of greatness and the heroes have moments of darkness (*groan*… I’m sorry, it’s too easy!) Nothing is black and white with these characters and that’s why I love them. Theme Tune. Ready to Die- Notorious B.I.G. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this song features about a million swear words… so, y’know. Those with sensitive ears…) I know this is probably a bit of a copout because this song features quite prominently in this book, but I don’t care, because the scenes where it features are extremely harrowing and unforgettable. Sadness Scale. 10/10. This book gutted me and there were a few points where it was difficult to actually get through it because of the situations portrayed. But like I always say in my reviews, I’m not a sensitive reader and I don’t mind when things get a bit dark, as long as they aren’t gratuitous or sensationalised for shock value. I’m so happy to say that Mr Lake’s portrayals were never like this. Taken from Mr Lake’s Author’s Note: “This is a work of fiction. That said, much in it is true. If you were hoping that some of the more unpleasant things you have just read were made up, then I apologise.” Apology accepted. :( Recommended For. People who are looking for a brilliantly research historical YA novel…..and people who aren’t claustrophobic. I received this book as a part of a tour set up by the wonderful wonderful UK Book Tours.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ela

    "I knew even then that they bought drugs. I just didn't care. Why would you care? I lived in a place where it was common to eat mud." In 2010 when Haiti is hit by an a boy is trapped in the ruins of a hospital. As he lies in the darkness he recounts the story of his life; how he lost his family, he joined a gang and how he was shot. Alongside his story runs the story of Toussaint, a slave in Haiti 1791 who leads a rebellion to abolish slavery. Bad Points -It took me about 50 pages to stop being "I knew even then that they bought drugs. I just didn't care. Why would you care? I lived in a place where it was common to eat mud." In 2010 when Haiti is hit by an a boy is trapped in the ruins of a hospital. As he lies in the darkness he recounts the story of his life; how he lost his family, he joined a gang and how he was shot. Alongside his story runs the story of Toussaint, a slave in Haiti 1791 who leads a rebellion to abolish slavery. Bad Points -It took me about 50 pages to stop being bored; 100 pages to get interested in the storyline and about 150 to actually care what happened -It's apparent desperation to be profound was annoying and, sometimes, nonsensical "he did feel joy precisely-he was joy, just as he was water, and stone." Okay, whatever you say, can you please get back to the story? -The dual narrative was annoying a lot of the time; just as I'd get into one storyline it would completely change. Good Points -Before reading this my knowledge of Haiti could've filled a post-it note and would have mainly consisted of the words 'island' and 'earthquake'. This book did a fabulous job of educating me, while making it feel like part of the story. -Nick Lake managed to include: Voodoo, gang violence, the slave trade, drugs, poverty, death, civil rights and numerous current affairs in one book, and against the odds the all melded together really well. So despite the slow start and the sometimes annoying writing this is the first time after reading a book that I have actively gone and looked up more information about the context of the book. It introduced to so many topics I previously knew nothing about, and for that it deserves some recognition.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I didn't enjoy this book. It's hard to enjoy a book on a topic like this. "Shorty" is trapped when the hospital collapses during the recent, devastating Haitian earthquake. He thinks back on his life, and the horrors he's seen, the violence that he's been a part of, as he tries to dig himself out of the rubble. He also hallucinates or possesses Toussaint l'Ouverture, the 19th century slave who led the rebellion that freed the black people of Haiti. Neither story is very happy. I had a hard time, I didn't enjoy this book. It's hard to enjoy a book on a topic like this. "Shorty" is trapped when the hospital collapses during the recent, devastating Haitian earthquake. He thinks back on his life, and the horrors he's seen, the violence that he's been a part of, as he tries to dig himself out of the rubble. He also hallucinates or possesses Toussaint l'Ouverture, the 19th century slave who led the rebellion that freed the black people of Haiti. Neither story is very happy. I had a hard time, not believing either story, but getting into it because I was sadly unaware of either Haiti's past or present. I knew vaguely about the slave rebellion, but not how bad things had been before, or what had happened to Toussaint at the end. I also knew that Haiti is still very troubled today, but not the extremes of violence and poverty presented here. Everything was new to me, and very shocking, and it was hard for me to find Shorty very sympathetic or to focus on the story when I was almost immediately so upset by the things that were happening. I was angry with Shorty for not staying in school and making something of himself, angry at the UN for their ineffective measures, just angry, angry, angry. (Napoleon betrayed Toussaint, by the way, in order to get the treasure that it was rumored this dirt poor former slave had hidden in the jungle. So. Angry. It's not like I expected any better of Napoleon, though.) I think this book is important in that it shows a part of the world that we in our nice American homes don't like to talk about, and Lake pulls no punches. But it's not an easy or a fun read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    This book is the 2013 Michael Printz winner and it absolutely deserves it. The book is set in Haiti and toggles back and forth in time between the 2010 devastating earthquake and the beginning of Haiti's struggle to free itelf from its oppressors. Shorty, a 15 year old gang member who lives in the slums of Port au Prince, is taken to the hospital shortly before the earthquake and is now trapped beneath the collapsed building. As he waits for rescue, Shorty revisits his past and also begins to ex This book is the 2013 Michael Printz winner and it absolutely deserves it. The book is set in Haiti and toggles back and forth in time between the 2010 devastating earthquake and the beginning of Haiti's struggle to free itelf from its oppressors. Shorty, a 15 year old gang member who lives in the slums of Port au Prince, is taken to the hospital shortly before the earthquake and is now trapped beneath the collapsed building. As he waits for rescue, Shorty revisits his past and also begins to experience another life--that of Toussaint Overture, the hero of Haiti who fought the colonial oppressors and won. The novel links these two characters in fascinating ways, as it explores the spiritual connection between the two. The novel grabs you immediately with its vivid language and unusual story. I was fascinated by the historical background of Haiti and with Toussaint. The book demonstrates, with no preachiness whatsoever, that Haiti has no hope as long as basic necessities are denied the poorest of its citizens, who must depend upon gang members to survive. The novel does leave us with some hope at the end, but it is completely unsparing in its account of all the terrors that plague this beautiful island. It will remain with you for a long time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    If I haven't already done so, I like to read the Printz winner each year, so I gave this one a fairly substantial try, getting about 2/3 of the way through the twin tales of a current day Haitian boy trapped in the rubble of a hospital after the earthquake and that of Tousssaint L'Overture, leader of the slave revolt against the French some two centuries before. The two share a psychic link that allows each to see, hear, and understand some of what the other is experiencing in his time of terror If I haven't already done so, I like to read the Printz winner each year, so I gave this one a fairly substantial try, getting about 2/3 of the way through the twin tales of a current day Haitian boy trapped in the rubble of a hospital after the earthquake and that of Tousssaint L'Overture, leader of the slave revolt against the French some two centuries before. The two share a psychic link that allows each to see, hear, and understand some of what the other is experiencing in his time of terror or rebellion. Each manages to strengthen or enhance the other--after the confusion and discomfort at being inside another person's consciousness give way. While Lake does a nice job of bringing the mean streets of Haita to full technicolor and of turning what could be a dry historical account to a more stirring depiction of a man turned into a leader and conscience in a turbulent time of revolution, this book is unlikely to check out at my school--and, I would warrant, at a great many others. Why? Because unless a classroom teacher assigned students to read something more challenging, literary, or historical, it's extremely unlikely. It's this sort of "broccoli" book that the Printz folks seems to select frequently, at least recently. Now some of them I quite love: Book Thief, Shipbreaker, and Looking for Alaska especially. But others don't seem chosen for teen appeal but instead as a "Hey, this book is unique and deserves more attention." I can respect that, but it can limit the award as a reason for book recommendations or purchases at libraries serving teens.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    The "now" part of this novel follows a boy named Shorty who lies trapped in the rubble of a collapsed hospital, surrounded by the dead bodies and scavengers. Shorty has grown up in the slums of Port-au-Prince, often dubbed "the most dangerous place on earth." As he drifts in and out of consciousness, we learn how Shorty ended up in the hospital, and linked to a thug, patterned after Biggie. The "then" part follows the life of Toussaint l'Ouverture and his leadership in emancipation of the slaves The "now" part of this novel follows a boy named Shorty who lies trapped in the rubble of a collapsed hospital, surrounded by the dead bodies and scavengers. Shorty has grown up in the slums of Port-au-Prince, often dubbed "the most dangerous place on earth." As he drifts in and out of consciousness, we learn how Shorty ended up in the hospital, and linked to a thug, patterned after Biggie. The "then" part follows the life of Toussaint l'Ouverture and his leadership in emancipation of the slaves in Haiti and battle with its French masters. While I liked the creative way in which Nick Lake linked the two stories, I did not really think they were sufficiently intertwined and therefore found the novel disjointed.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    I just finished this book (about thirty minutes ago) and as heart-wrenching and dark as it was at times, it addressed some really important topics that, admittedly, aren't too easy to translate into YA historical fiction. It's written in two interwoven tales- one taking place in the 1700s revolving around Toussaint l'Overture, who freed his country from slavery, and one in present day, telling the story of a boy named Shorty, both taking place in Haiti. One amazing thing about it was that Haiti I just finished this book (about thirty minutes ago) and as heart-wrenching and dark as it was at times, it addressed some really important topics that, admittedly, aren't too easy to translate into YA historical fiction. It's written in two interwoven tales- one taking place in the 1700s revolving around Toussaint l'Overture, who freed his country from slavery, and one in present day, telling the story of a boy named Shorty, both taking place in Haiti. One amazing thing about it was that Haiti wasn't only a backdrop, but an intriguing subject central to the development of both those characters, if that makes any sense. I picked this up not even knowing that it was (partially, at least) historical fiction, which was probably for the better- I haven't read one good historical fiction novel yet, so it's at the bottom of my list of genres to try. But I remember learning about Toussaint l'Overture in my eighth grade history class, and the bloody slave revolution from France in Haiti. And I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised at how captivated I was by the historical fiction portion- Toussaint's story is quite interesting, as is the way Lake portrays his peaceful motives and love of his country and all its people. Shorty's section of the book was, while I've never been to Haiti, a strikingly realistic portrait of modern-day pre- and post-earthquake, making it inevitably hard to read at times. In a world where people eat mud for nourishment and cannot even leave their slums to see the ocean, Shorty navigates through life without trying to take sides in the violent gang war raging in the Site, but he knows he has to join to save his sister. As a reader, and an American, and somebody who, by all the meanings of the word, has had a comfortable upbringing with a warm little house and an education- it was unimaginable to me how people could be so poor, so desperate, so impoverished, and how others won't even let them out to go to the hospital; where citizens of the slum look up to gangsters and drug lords because they pay for schools and food and crude medical attention when no one else will. All of this was portrayed in all of its disturbing and brutal truths, by the author. Nick Lake also conveys, in the author's note- which anybody who read the book should read- just how much of his story is true. While Shorty was a fictionalized character, his surroundings are very real, as Lake tried to show the gang war and the poverty as realistically as possible. In Darkness was overall very well written, and while it doesn't quite win my coveted five-star rating, it's really, really close. It's sad, because I know most people my age (young adults) are not going to pick up this book, mostly because they are scared of truly realizing the horrors of starvation and death outside of their cozy little homes. And because they are daunted by a story that, at times, is dark and sad and painfully real. But I still think it's an important and powerful read, though, for adults as well. 4.5 stars, for an intriguing novel that made me think and- for once- made me actually like historical fiction!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Compelling and a quick read. I don't feel qualified to comment on the accuracy or genuineness of the book, but it certainly makes an impression. I was most interested in the Toussaint L'Ouverture story, but also read with wide eyes about the young aid workers taken in by the glamor of the gangster. Whether it is better than Code Name Verity is something I won't commit to--certainly it is a little riskier--but I will allow that I can see how a committee might think it is as good as CNV. Compelling and a quick read. I don't feel qualified to comment on the accuracy or genuineness of the book, but it certainly makes an impression. I was most interested in the Toussaint L'Ouverture story, but also read with wide eyes about the young aid workers taken in by the glamor of the gangster. Whether it is better than Code Name Verity is something I won't commit to--certainly it is a little riskier--but I will allow that I can see how a committee might think it is as good as CNV.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ashleigh Rose

    Wow. Go read this now. This is, without a doubt, the best book I have read in a while. If you like reading about any of the following things, you will adore this book: teenagers, urban underclass, poverty, Haiti, strength in the face of despair, love, family, earthquakes, slums, historical fiction, or slave revolts. Nick Lake is an incredible writer who I would personally like to thank for this work of literature.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Band

    Well, I've finally finished this book but, if it hadn't been on the Carnegie shortlist, I would have abandoned it long ago. The basic story is good, quite intriguing and interesting but this is so buried in Haitian words, French phrases, ghetto slang than you struggle to get past all that. Some of the words I knew, some I made an educated guess at because of the context but many of them I really had no idea. And I do wonder how many teenagers/young adults are going to enjoy this. Most of them wo Well, I've finally finished this book but, if it hadn't been on the Carnegie shortlist, I would have abandoned it long ago. The basic story is good, quite intriguing and interesting but this is so buried in Haitian words, French phrases, ghetto slang than you struggle to get past all that. Some of the words I knew, some I made an educated guess at because of the context but many of them I really had no idea. And I do wonder how many teenagers/young adults are going to enjoy this. Most of them won't be able to get past the language barrier and will become so disillusioned with trying and it not making sense that they'll give up. Yes, I did finish it and in the last few chapters found myself connecting with the story but for most of the book I didn't have an interest in any of the characters nor any empathy with them.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    This was an excellent audiobook. The story was captivating with a brutal honesty that left me feeling a sense of hopelessness, but then as it continued, I found a lighter energy in the words and such a sense of relief for Shorty and Toussant to have found each other, even through the 200 years difference in their individual lives. It was a strange feeling at the end, sadness mixed with happiness. I can also only rave about the narrator, his voice was fantastic and easily transported me to Haiti This was an excellent audiobook. The story was captivating with a brutal honesty that left me feeling a sense of hopelessness, but then as it continued, I found a lighter energy in the words and such a sense of relief for Shorty and Toussant to have found each other, even through the 200 years difference in their individual lives. It was a strange feeling at the end, sadness mixed with happiness. I can also only rave about the narrator, his voice was fantastic and easily transported me to Haiti and into the story.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Praxedes

    Combining elements of history, drama, and science-fiction, Lake weaves a powerful tale of survival and death set in the beleaguered nation of Haiti Of course one finds racism, violence, and voodoo in the plot --it wouldn't be a Haitian tale without these elements. But Lake skillfully molds the story to incorporate them seamlessly. It is a rather complex tale for a YA novel, raising the bar as the winner of the Printz Award. Unlike many YA titles, it delves into character development and the rela Combining elements of history, drama, and science-fiction, Lake weaves a powerful tale of survival and death set in the beleaguered nation of Haiti Of course one finds racism, violence, and voodoo in the plot --it wouldn't be a Haitian tale without these elements. But Lake skillfully molds the story to incorporate them seamlessly. It is a rather complex tale for a YA novel, raising the bar as the winner of the Printz Award. Unlike many YA titles, it delves into character development and the relation of setting to the plot. Very nicely done, Mr. Lake!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andy Stamp

    Author Nick Lake tells the story of a young man trapped in darkness not knowing where he is and uncertain of what is happening around him and he invites us into his tale, a story of gang life, of sibling separation and a dynamic overview of political war whilst the foundation of Haiti is being lain down by Toussaint L’Overture, a rebel forming a slavery rebellion. What is most striking about this novel is the ideas and attitude behind it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a young person’s novel. Thi Author Nick Lake tells the story of a young man trapped in darkness not knowing where he is and uncertain of what is happening around him and he invites us into his tale, a story of gang life, of sibling separation and a dynamic overview of political war whilst the foundation of Haiti is being lain down by Toussaint L’Overture, a rebel forming a slavery rebellion. What is most striking about this novel is the ideas and attitude behind it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a young person’s novel. This is grown up and more appropriate for an older audience as it delves into the world of Haiti and travelling back and forth in time to the formation and destructive revolution of key historical figures and the central teenage boy, trapped in darkness recapping to the reader how he arrived in a desolate hospital. And the structure to this award winning novel is key to the development of the settings and lifestyle of central character Shorty, a young man who was separated from his sister, who had a difficult upbringing and becoming involved in gang life. Balancing his story alongside the slow build up of Haiti’s history and Toussaint L’Overture, a rebel who fought for slave freedom brings along a remarkable novel of deep political history with heavy family drama, death and national angst. As a teenage/young adult novel I was struck by the violent broadness of Nick Lake’s story, it is staggeringly brutal and unafraid to skirt around drug intakes and deals, political death threats and bloody imagery. It is quite startling also to read a swear word practically on every page. So if you’re planning on using this to teach or read with your teenage son or daughter, be wary this is a heavy drama. However the central character is well established as a teenager with his gangster attitude, his friends and often Nick Lake inserts references to modern rappers which some may find funny and others might find ridiculous. As if the use of slang, race and imagery generate would be classed as stereotypical. The stand out feature to this 2012 novel is Shorty’s moving reflection towards his family. With regards to his lost sister Nick Lake writes in a beautiful way that only a sibling could really appreciate. He generates a feeling of a connection with writing from the point of view of Shorty and scripting some heart rendering statements about his sister’s outlook on life, how she was, how she cared, what she looked like and now, what little he can remember. It may generate a tear or two. If your history knowledge is as small as mine then fear not as when this book gets into its groove there is some strong scene setting from Nick Lake and detailed history to entice and intrigue. The problem with this is that it can feel long winded and by being dragged into a deep meaningful history lesson, ‘In Darkness’ can lose some of the intensity that the characters can brilliantly generate. And perhaps that’s a key when this book gets going. It’s intense and violent and mentally strong and you feel, an important novel given the history of Haiti. The structure of the book works well, going from the present to the past and back allows the author to tell two stories at once and this works having a break in between the heavy and the light side of life. But as a result the flow of the story is corrupted and it is challenging to recapture that feeling of being right there in the heart of war to being in the hospital. In Darkness therefore is quite a unique book to place on a shelf. It feels important, and it is, and at the same time despite the wonderful drama and detailed historical overview, it is quite a challenging read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Nick Lake has written a shockingly dark novel about Haiti, sharing two perspectives on the country's troubled history. Our first narrator is "Shorty," a fourteen-year-old gang member who is caught in the rubble of the Haiti earthquake. The hospital collapses on him while he is being treated for a gunshot wound. The next narrator is Toussiant l'Overture, the historical figure who led the Haitian Revolution against French colonization in the 18th century. Through some mystical voodoo vortex, the t Nick Lake has written a shockingly dark novel about Haiti, sharing two perspectives on the country's troubled history. Our first narrator is "Shorty," a fourteen-year-old gang member who is caught in the rubble of the Haiti earthquake. The hospital collapses on him while he is being treated for a gunshot wound. The next narrator is Toussiant l'Overture, the historical figure who led the Haitian Revolution against French colonization in the 18th century. Through some mystical voodoo vortex, the two men are able to channel each other in times of crisis, each catching a glimpse of a Haiti they do not know. Shorty has spent his life in the slums. He watched his father get murdered, his sister vanished without a trace, and his mother consistently struggles to survive. Toussaint was a slave in Haiti, yet rebelled against the institution, and his success in Haiti was instrumental in expanding anti-slavery movements throughout the free world. I am still digesting this book. While I think it is well-written, fascinating and informative, I don't think it's got teen appeal. I was unfamiliar myself with the majority of historical Haiti references, and some of the street language, while authentic, was challening to follow. I would say it could be used as a tie-in to high school students researching Haiti's conflicts, but the graphic nature of the conflicts and the high use of profanity only make it suitable for older teens.

  16. 5 out of 5

    ~✡~Dαni(ela) ♥ ♂♂ love & semi-colons~✡~

    Even though Shorty, who narrates the "Now" portion of the story, is 15, this is not a YA novel. Not many teens know anything about Haitian history or would be able to follow the "Then" flashbacks, slum culture references, or slang doled out in three languages. The story is told in a stream of consciousness narrative as Shorty lies dying in the rabble of a collapsed hospital following an earthquake. Certain he's dying, Shorty talk about his life, including his beloved twin sister who vanished wit Even though Shorty, who narrates the "Now" portion of the story, is 15, this is not a YA novel. Not many teens know anything about Haitian history or would be able to follow the "Then" flashbacks, slum culture references, or slang doled out in three languages. The story is told in a stream of consciousness narrative as Shorty lies dying in the rabble of a collapsed hospital following an earthquake. Certain he's dying, Shorty talk about his life, including his beloved twin sister who vanished without a trace, his father who was murdered, and his life in the violent gang Route 9. I had a difficult time following Shorty's narrative; much of it felt abstract and intangible. The author never brought the brutality of the slums home for me. I was even less enamored of the "Then" portion of the story, which follows a Haitian revolutionary hero, l'Ouverture; the "Then" portion doesn't seem to be grounded in actual time, although, according to the author's end note, it is based on fact. Somehow, Shortly and l'Ouverture connect cosmically/spiritually, although the nature of their connection is very much open to interpretation. I feel like I should have liked this book, but the story barely plodded along, and I can't say much to recommend it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Every once in a while you read something that you can only describe as a "good book". The writing is awesome, the characters unique, and the storyline captivating. In Darkness is one of those books. Winner of the 2013 Printz award for young adult literature, I've been meaning to read this one for a year now. I don't know why I kept putting it off because I very much enjoyed this book. The dual protagonists reminded me a lot of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly which is always a good thing. While t Every once in a while you read something that you can only describe as a "good book". The writing is awesome, the characters unique, and the storyline captivating. In Darkness is one of those books. Winner of the 2013 Printz award for young adult literature, I've been meaning to read this one for a year now. I don't know why I kept putting it off because I very much enjoyed this book. The dual protagonists reminded me a lot of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly which is always a good thing. While the Haitian setting isn't one that I would normally be drawn to, I found that I needed to finish the book because I had no idea how it was going to end. This isn't the case for me usually, which made it even more special. I enjoyed learning about the Haitian culture then and now, and will continue to promote this one as a "good book".

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    Wow. Haunting. This was brutal and beautiful at the same time, and I raced to find out what happened and now want to go back and re-read. I read the book Taste of Salt years ago, another YA book set in Haiti, and it has always stayed with me. So the setting of this book, and its real life characters and brutal history tinged with hope, always with hope, were familiar and captivating. Nick Hall does with "ideas" what Zusak did with "stories" in The Book Thief, and there are passages and recurring Wow. Haunting. This was brutal and beautiful at the same time, and I raced to find out what happened and now want to go back and re-read. I read the book Taste of Salt years ago, another YA book set in Haiti, and it has always stayed with me. So the setting of this book, and its real life characters and brutal history tinged with hope, always with hope, were familiar and captivating. Nick Hall does with "ideas" what Zusak did with "stories" in The Book Thief, and there are passages and recurring themes that will endure. This book won the Printz Award for Best YA book, and it is certainly worthy, though I don't think there are many 12-18 year olds I can think of that I would easily recommend this to. Nevertheless, it is worth the dark journey.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Monique

    Well this book is deep. I did not intend to get into vodou, maji, zombis and anpil Hatian slang.. You get all that and more--this book is set in the heart of Haiti and is heavily peppered with Haitian Creole slang and vocabulary which is basically thrown at you many times so you get used to it but it is jarring at first for sure....Not really knowing what to expect I was floored with the new language and heavy content..the book starts without much introduction except it is dark..the dark talks to Well this book is deep. I did not intend to get into vodou, maji, zombis and anpil Hatian slang.. You get all that and more--this book is set in the heart of Haiti and is heavily peppered with Haitian Creole slang and vocabulary which is basically thrown at you many times so you get used to it but it is jarring at first for sure....Not really knowing what to expect I was floored with the new language and heavy content..the book starts without much introduction except it is dark..the dark talks to you, the dark is all your fears realized and Shorty is living in it... “I can see the whole of Port-au-Prince-the palace, the homes of the rich, the open-air prison of Site Soley. It’s all collapsed. The palace is just dust and rubble, the homes are destroyed. Only Site Soley looks the same, and that’s cos Site Soley was a ruin to begin with. (pg. 55) The descriptions of Site Soley will break your heart---true devastating poverty, people eating mud pies for sustenance, babies thrown away due to lack of money to care for them, bad sewage, untreated water, and just despair and dire hopelessness for basic items for survival—I had to read more about this area considered the most dangerous place in the world. “There is no such thing as children in Site Soley, only smaller starving people, only smaller dead people.” (pg. 81) He is fifteen years old and trapped in a hospital bloody, thirsty and helpless telling the story of his life and his family..He had a Manman (mother), father and twin sister—he begins to tell the story of how he was separated from his family when the book breaks to a parallel story of Toussiant L’Ouverture the Haitian slave turned revolutionary leader..I had no idea what this would be about as I try to read without prejudicing myself by even a tempting Goodreads review glance until I am about fifty pages in and formed my own opinion but I never expected the book to go where it went—babies ground into dust to make protective powders, raising people from the grave and slave revolt uprising with a large amount of politics—I commend this book for even trying to tackle this complexity … As I stated this book tells a lot about the slave revolt and eventual freedom of Haiti by Toussaint and the imagining of possession of Gods is enlightening and very reminiscent of the Egyptian rituals--- --We’re proving ourselves African. If we take the whites’ religion and their education , then we’ll only ever be free on their terms. (pg. 49) And at first Toussaint is not a believer, not understanding of why the dramatics are necessary to engage the people, though he quickly becomes a believer.. ---Ogou is the father of war, said Boukman. In the country of our fathers they say, deye morne ga morne; deye feu ga feu. Behind the mountain is another mountain; behind the fire is another fire. Ogou is the mountain. Ogou is the fire. Do you understand? --No, said Toussaint. (pg. 50) So aside from the possessions, the switches through history and the lives of two different male characters, descriptions of street life, violence, rituals and Haitian life the story goes on and you lose track of the storyline a few times, it gets rough and I can’t see this being an easy read for a young adult as I can’t lie this was not an easy read for me …it asks a lot in a reader as far as committing to the language, culture and time periods addressed here but it is powerful, haunting and complex..very interesting read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    I enjoyed about half of this book. The story about Touissant and his liberation of Haiti is compelling and well-told, but I found Shorty’s side of the story to feel very forced. It sounded like an adult trying to talk like a kid who thinks he’s cool. I don’t know; Shorty’s story didn’t capture my attention the same way as Touissant’s. I did love Touissant’s story though - I just wish the author hadn’t attributed his ability to read and write to voodoo. That was such a cop out from what Touissant I enjoyed about half of this book. The story about Touissant and his liberation of Haiti is compelling and well-told, but I found Shorty’s side of the story to feel very forced. It sounded like an adult trying to talk like a kid who thinks he’s cool. I don’t know; Shorty’s story didn’t capture my attention the same way as Touissant’s. I did love Touissant’s story though - I just wish the author hadn’t attributed his ability to read and write to voodoo. That was such a cop out from what Touissant actually accomplished and I think is a disservice to the man and his abilities.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lorna Satchwell

    This is an amazing story! I could read it over and over! It’s the kind of story that makes you want to do research. It widens you up. Loved this!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kurt

    It felt a little forced the way Lake made Toussaint and Shorty merge across time, but both the history of the Haitian revolution and the present-day story of gangsterism in Site Solèy were gripping. I most especially loved the insurrectionary politics of the past: "— This is the white nation of Haiti, he said. Nothing but a house of cards. We outnumber them. They hold their dominion over us through a kind of mental trick, making what is delicate and weak seem solid. He blew on the cards, made the It felt a little forced the way Lake made Toussaint and Shorty merge across time, but both the history of the Haitian revolution and the present-day story of gangsterism in Site Solèy were gripping. I most especially loved the insurrectionary politics of the past: "— This is the white nation of Haiti, he said. Nothing but a house of cards. We outnumber them. They hold their dominion over us through a kind of mental trick, making what is delicate and weak seem solid. He blew on the cards, made them scatter. — We are the wind, he said. We are the air and earth and mountains of this country, and we will take it from them" (132). Toussaint gets the heroic send-up he deserves (though even Lake admire he could’ve complicated it more), and Shorty and the other gang-bangers get the humane portrait they deserve, too. A really beautiful book about the many kinds of earthquakes, past and present, that have rocked Haiti, trapping it IN DARKNESS—and about the light that has always been possible.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate White

    This book was really good until the ending. I really liked this book and what it stood for and how it brought light to certain topics we as Americans don’t like to address or talk about. However, the ending was a total cop out. In Darkness by Nick Lake was published in 2012, soon after the world shaking earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. I haven’t read any other books by this author or about this type of topic, but I am curious to read more. Lake uses the native language of Creole, also writing This book was really good until the ending. I really liked this book and what it stood for and how it brought light to certain topics we as Americans don’t like to address or talk about. However, the ending was a total cop out. In Darkness by Nick Lake was published in 2012, soon after the world shaking earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. I haven’t read any other books by this author or about this type of topic, but I am curious to read more. Lake uses the native language of Creole, also writing in French and English. However, when the Voodoo rituals are performed and the songs of the gods sung, he doesn’t translate what they’re saying. I did not like that, but only because I feel like if something is written, then it has significance. I don’t know that significance. In Darkness is about a 15 year old boy who is trapped in a collapsed hospital after the earthquake. The only name we ever know him as is Shorty. He never reveals his actual name, although the character talks about doing so. Shorty takes his audience through his current surroundings and how he ended up there. He talks about gang violence and the different governing bodies of Haiti and the cruelty of military operations. While Shorty is slowing dying, he goes unconscious and becomes one with the mind of Toussaint L’Ouverture. Toussaint tells his stories as he is fighting his way to independence during the Haitian Revolution. These two men line up in how their lives have been lived and make a connection between themselves in a way they don’t recognize. Lake does a really nice job of explaining why Shorty or Toussaint are who they are without over explaining. Shorty sees gang violence and has early experience with gun fights that have shaped him into a young soldier of sorts. This is also why he ends up in the hospital in the first place. Toussaint speaks of first hand violence between master and slave in the late 1700s. He talks about his own master and how kind he was which leads Toussaint to be merciful on his prisoners of war. Lake develops these characters without making “exaggerations.” I never saw the twists and turns in the story. Shorty talks about who dies near the beginning, but how they die I never saw coming. Since no American really knows anything about any other country and what poverty occurs and what violence is constant, this book was very eye opening. I don’t know anything about mobs or gangs in Chicago or New York, yet alone a small country in the Caribbean. I think it’s very realistic, but I wouldn’t know otherwise if it was completely made up. I’ve heard stories about poverty in South Africa when I was in a lecture setting with missionaries from that area. From what they told me, this book is very similar. People live in shacks and eat dirt for dinner. However, a little over a mile away, people have inground pools, maids, cars, an actual house, and real food. It’s crazy that two completely different worlds can be so close together and never interact. I haven’t really read anything else like this, but I think this book is very upfront with the reader about the issues. Lake doesn’t describe the gory details of certain acts, but he writes the image well enough to shake the reader and have them make a connection in their mind. We are so sheltered, not knowing the true horrors of slavery or gang violence. We like to tuck it away and claim that it will never affect us or happen to us. Be ready for a lot of death and blood and eye opening in general. I feel like there isn’t really a positive outlook to this book by Nick Lake. He’s very honest about the world outside our protective bubble. The message is this: the world is worse than you would think and we need to help it before it hurts us. I think everyone should read this book. It changed my outlook and I think it could change everyone else’s too. That being said, I don’t think anyone younger than high school age should pick this book up. It’s good to be honest with yourself about the world, but let’s try to keep kids as innocent as possible before the world gets to them. Deal?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A dystopia. Haiti is on a fault line, you should understand that. It's like the whole country is cursed; we're on a crack in the world, and everything in Haiti is cracked, too. We're a broken country. In the middle of reading this, I started seeing it as a dark, bleak dystopian tale. Not in the typical sense--it's not set in the future and isn't so speculative, after all--but for those of us not part of the setting it functions in many of the same ways. Except that it's bleaker, more disturbing, a A dystopia. Haiti is on a fault line, you should understand that. It's like the whole country is cursed; we're on a crack in the world, and everything in Haiti is cracked, too. We're a broken country. In the middle of reading this, I started seeing it as a dark, bleak dystopian tale. Not in the typical sense--it's not set in the future and isn't so speculative, after all--but for those of us not part of the setting it functions in many of the same ways. Except that it's bleaker, more disturbing, and more cautionary than the average dystopia because it's real. Not only is In Darkness set in Haiti, unlike the standard tale of the category I've assigned to it the story is set in the past. Shorty's tale is set in the recent past; as he lies in the darkness under a collapsed hospital following the massive earthquake of 2010 he reflects, in flashback, upon his life that has led to that point, how his desperate struggle to survive in one of the world's poorest slums led him to becoming a very stained person: When you keep hurting someone, you do one of three things. Either you fill them up with hate, and they destroy everything around them. Or you fill them up with sadness, and they destroy themselves. Of you fill them up with justice, and they try to destroy everything that's bad and cruel in this world. Me, I was the first kind of person. The alternating chapters, set in the more distant past, tell Toussaint l'Ouverture's tale as he goes from being a slave on a remote island controlled by France to a revolutionary leader fighting to make his people free, how he became a legendary figure of Haiti's founding as an independent nation: It seemed to him, lying there, that there were three kinds of slaves, three kinds of people. There were those who were so filled with hate by their experience, by their oppression, that they snapped and destroyed property or people. There were those who were so filled with sadness by their experience that they snapped and destroyed themselves; someone would find them hanging in the barn, or lying in the field with slit wrists; Toussaint had been that someone several times, had found them like that. It made him cry, always. The third kind of person, though, was filled by their experience with a fierce longing for justice, a fierce desire to make things right in the world, to redress the balance. In the darkness, Toussaint fancied that he was the third kind of person, and fire his soul, to fill himself with a sense of the need for justice, he called up the faces that embodied for him slavery's evil. Even though their stories are set centuries apart, Shorty and Toussaint are connected by more than their setting. In a bit of what we literary types who like to categorize things call magic realism, based on the rituals, beliefs, and traditions of the people of Haiti, Shorty and Toussaint possess each other. Shorty dreams Toussaint's story while he lays there in the dark, and Toussaint has visions of Shorty's future with us as we discover his past. They become--they are--the same person. Shorty's grim future is not one that Toussaint always finds inspiring: If that were true, thought Toussaint, then he truly had accomplished nothing, for his descendant was also trapped in darkness, was also dying, his flesh was also slowly enervated by deprivation. He had staked his life to give his people freedom, but his people still were not free. Shorty, though. Shorty experiences in Toussaint something he's never known, a view that changes his own perspective: I can read, I think. And I have feelings and a soul in my chest, and I can talk and laugh and cry just like a real person, and I'm capable of doing good things. I've fucked up in the past, oh yes, I know I have, but Manman, I'll try to make you proud. Like all dystopias, this one is based on hope.

  25. 4 out of 5

    BAYA Librarian

    Shorty gains consciousness in the dark, trapped by the fallen walls of the hospital ward in which he was recovering from a gunshot wound. He wonders if he’s dead, a ghost cursed to live in shadows forever, but his needs of thirst and hunger convince him otherwise. Struggling to survive, Shorty laps blood pooled on the floor, wondering if it’s his own or another’s. But he senses no other life besides the scuttling of rats. His world before this wreckage was equally brutal – gangs, guns, deprivati Shorty gains consciousness in the dark, trapped by the fallen walls of the hospital ward in which he was recovering from a gunshot wound. He wonders if he’s dead, a ghost cursed to live in shadows forever, but his needs of thirst and hunger convince him otherwise. Struggling to survive, Shorty laps blood pooled on the floor, wondering if it’s his own or another’s. But he senses no other life besides the scuttling of rats. His world before this wreckage was equally brutal – gangs, guns, deprivation – so he is accustomed to pain and horror, but this absolute lack of light may drive him to madness. The day-to-day violence doesn’t bother him much and since he’s one of the perpetrators, he’s hardened himself to a life of guns, neglect, abandonment, and need. Mixing mud with fat to make pies and leaving sick babies in the trash is commonplace here in his gang-infested ghetto. Haiti is described as cracked and cursed, suspended on a fault line. The reader learns Shorty’s sad and turbulent past; his father killed by gang members the abduction of his twin sister. They lived on the line between two gangs and each believed the family loyal to the rival. Militia violence, supported by the government who supplies only guns, is both tearing their lives apart yet keeping them alive, as gang leaders, some working with the UN, are the only ones delivery much-needed provisions. References to rap music and the desired extravagance of wealth bring the narrative to life. Shorty says he was born in blood and darkness and is destined to die the same, and his circumstances, trapped under filth and rubble, suggest the prophecy is true. Yet an old adage reminds the reader that the darkness is never complete, there are stars, and so there is always hope. The story begins to segue into Haiti’s violent past, and the reader is introduced to Toussaint, the former slave who rebelled to free Haiti’s blacks, but was eventually crushed by Napoleon. Then and now, history and current events weave together, and Shorty and Toussaint both gain a mysterious knowledge of the other in their dreams and visions. Parallel lives emerge, as the reader learns of Toussaint’s twin sister, who was also lost, and how he considered himself a soul split in parts, only half a person. In Haitian culture, twins are magical. Shorty’s sister, Marguerite, completed him and after his death, he remained half a soul, wearing a necklace of a broken heart, forever searching to be made whole again. The reader sees Haiti as a place of relentless violence, oppression and destruction, yet lined with a gleam of hope inspired by the seeking of justice and honoring the past. Justice overrides revenge, which is said to help no one, least of all the dead. This is a mournful story about the brutality of slavery, war, and poverty; brilliantly told, with memorable characters who will linger in the reader’s mind; a grave yet inspirational work of historical fiction.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    In Darkness, by Nick Lake, is an intertwined story about a 15 year old boy, Shorty, who gets trapped in a hospital after an earthquake in Haiti, and Toussaint l'Ouverture, who is leading one of the greatest slave revolutions in Haiti in the late 1700s. As Shorty is stuck with no food or water, he begins to hallucinate about Toussaint. At the same time (actually hundreds of years earlier), Toussaint is leading a great slave revolution, but he is also dreaming of a Haiti where there are not slaves In Darkness, by Nick Lake, is an intertwined story about a 15 year old boy, Shorty, who gets trapped in a hospital after an earthquake in Haiti, and Toussaint l'Ouverture, who is leading one of the greatest slave revolutions in Haiti in the late 1700s. As Shorty is stuck with no food or water, he begins to hallucinate about Toussaint. At the same time (actually hundreds of years earlier), Toussaint is leading a great slave revolution, but he is also dreaming of a Haiti where there are not slaves but there is loud music and tall building and metal carriages riding around on wheels. Lake chose to write about two very interesting story lines. Learning about Toussaint l'Ouverture was very educational, he definitely made me want to learn more about this fascinating person from history. Shorty's story was much more relatable because of the time period. Lake did a great job of adding in different people that even students today may have heard about, but definitely students from about 10 years ago. Notorious BIG and Jay Z are two that are mentioned, which many students will like because they can help connect with this character more. Lake also does an incredible job of describing Haiti and some of the cultural rituals that happen there. While describing the voodou religious ceremonies, one could really see what was happening. Picturing the landscape of Haiti, both in the past and in the present was very easy to do with the descriptions Lake gives. While the two stories are very interesting, the intertwined stories did not mesh very well. It seemed as if Lake made a loose connection and tried to force the characters to be similar (or even possibly the same). This story was also slow in the beginning. The alternating chapters of "Then" and "Now" were also frustrating at times. It was easy to get into a story, and then have that story gone and reading another story for a while. More background information would be very helpful when reading this book. More information on what Haiti was like in the 1700s and what Haiti was like before the earthquake could really help this story. While this story is going to be a hard book to just pick up to enjoy for some light reading, this book will stand it own with some great historical fiction books. One studying Haiti would also find this book as a great way to mesh learning and enjoyable reading. I would recommend this book to 10-12 graders who enjoy historical fiction or who would really like to learn something while they are reading because I did find myself looking up characters such as Toussaint and Dread Wilme after I was finished reading the book. This book also contains an author's note at the end, which I always like to read because I like hearing what is fiction and what is nonfiction when I read historical fiction books.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    This is a grim book but very well written. Shorty is a teenage boy trapped under the rubble in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. While he is trapped he recounts his life to 'the voices' and the voudou deities in an attempt to keep a grip on his sanity. His twin sister was abducted when he was young and the missing part of his soul connects to that of Touissant D'LOverture, the Haitian ex-slave from the 1780s, who abolished slavery and established independence. Shorty never achieves greatn This is a grim book but very well written. Shorty is a teenage boy trapped under the rubble in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. While he is trapped he recounts his life to 'the voices' and the voudou deities in an attempt to keep a grip on his sanity. His twin sister was abducted when he was young and the missing part of his soul connects to that of Touissant D'LOverture, the Haitian ex-slave from the 1780s, who abolished slavery and established independence. Shorty never achieves greatness like Touissant, in fact his greatest achievement is to stay alive against all the odds; poverty, deprivation, casual violence and brutality is a way of life in the slums of Port au Prince, and Nick Lake pulls no punches. In fact I would question whether this should be classified as a YA book: it is on the Carnegie 2013 Shortlist, yet I am very relieved that many of my yr 7 readers are practising effective self censorship and are either heeding the warning that this is really aimed at 14+ or putting it down themselves after a few pages. Whilst the level of casual and brutal violence is not gratuitous, it is too high and explicit for most pre-teens. It is not by any means a pleasant or comfortable read and for that reason I am hesitating with a 5*. However, it is engaging, interesting, and does challenge the reader. It does not glorify violence but presents it as a part of life in Port au Prince. The connection between Touissant and Shorty is tenuous but I was prepared to go with it, with one character seeking vengeance and the other avoiding it and pursuing higher ideals. The ending is perhaps a little optimistic (if I'm honest, in terms of the final page I would only concede Shorty's opening assertion 'I count my blessings: one , I am alive, two: there is no two') but having finished the book it is almost a relief to have Lake insist that there is hope. And I did like the way Lake played with the idea of darkness and light throughout the novel. Not for the faint hearted: if you are looking for a fluffy YA read, keep looking. Postscript: I am not sure what the Printz award is, but I am not surprised it has won. Not sure how many teens would pick it up though. Now off to read Code Name Verity which was one of the Honour books and is also on the Carnegie 2013 shortlist

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joella

    Shorty is trapped in a hospital that has collapsed in the big earthquake in Haiti a few years ago. He is all alone. Everyone else with him in the hospital has been crushed and killed. He can feel the death in their hands and understands it as the rats move around feasting. Yet as he is fighting the thirst and starvation, he also starts to dream that he is someone from the past–someone who dreams for a better life for Haiti–someone named Toussaint l’Ouverture, the one who helped Haiti step on the Shorty is trapped in a hospital that has collapsed in the big earthquake in Haiti a few years ago. He is all alone. Everyone else with him in the hospital has been crushed and killed. He can feel the death in their hands and understands it as the rats move around feasting. Yet as he is fighting the thirst and starvation, he also starts to dream that he is someone from the past–someone who dreams for a better life for Haiti–someone named Toussaint l’Ouverture, the one who helped Haiti step on the path to freedom. The book weaves the past and the present together through two strong characters who are similar enough that it is a haunting coincidence. I liked how the book weaves two stories together into one voice, one fight out of darkness and into freedom. I enjoyed the way the characters lived and wondered at the bits that they understood from each other. I didn’t love reading about all the death and war and darkness. But that is the whole point. Darkness is not a place that anyone would want to be trapped in, whether it was from chains of slavery or piles of concrete. Anything that holds back on one’s ability to make choices and to live is a dark place to be in. This book demonstrated that. But as you all know from my review of Crusher by Niall Leonard, I just am not all that great when it comes to reading about blood and death. I had to put this book down a few times to remind myself that I wasn’t in the earthquake and I wasn’t in the fighting. I guess my imagination just gets to intense for me to not squirm with certain books. And then there was all the black magic. I didn’t understand it myself, but I did see how it played a major part in both Shorty and Toussaint’s lives. I liked how the book was true to that part of Haitian culture, even if I didn’t always get it. This is a good book, with loads of double meanings threaded through the double story. I can see why it won the Printz award. But I can also see why it wasn’t a book I was drawn to until this challenge.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Bandel

    In Darkness by Nick Lake, published 2012. Magic realism. Novel, e-book. Grades 9-12. Found via School Library Journal, reviewed by Gerry Larson. Shorty is a boy trying to survive in Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries. With his father dead, this twin sister missing, and his mother to support, Shorty falls into a gang just to get by. In Darkness opens with Shorty trapped in rubble following the Haitian earthquake of 2010, unsure of what's going on and with nothing to do but reflect on his life In Darkness by Nick Lake, published 2012. Magic realism. Novel, e-book. Grades 9-12. Found via School Library Journal, reviewed by Gerry Larson. Shorty is a boy trying to survive in Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries. With his father dead, this twin sister missing, and his mother to support, Shorty falls into a gang just to get by. In Darkness opens with Shorty trapped in rubble following the Haitian earthquake of 2010, unsure of what's going on and with nothing to do but reflect on his life until then. During these recollections, Shorty somehow feels a connection with Toussaint L'Ouverture, the man responsible for freeing the slaves from French rule. Resting on the idea that twins have half a soul, In Darkness shows Shorty and Toussaint to be connected through vodou, as each is aware of the other's life during their sleeping moments. The book alternates between "Now" and "Then," developing each character's narrative as Toussaint fights against the tyranny of the French and Shorty fights against death and the darkness of his life. This book is a difficult read, as the spoken language relies heavily on Creole and French patois, as well as French conventions for writing dialogue. Despite this, reviewer Larson indicates that "[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." While readers may feel drawn to Shorty and his struggles, the inclusion of the adult Toussaint may alienate teens, and the difficulty of the language may drive away all readers but those with an existing knowledge of the French language. Furthermore, In Darkness has a lot of violence, drug abuse, underaged use of alcohol, and a heavy reliance on vodou, including the darker aspects of the religion. The right reader may get a lot out of this book, but teens should be advised of the many dark aspects of this book before giving it a chance.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Kate Kearns Book review #1 In Darkness While residing in a hospital in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Shorty's life takes a turn for the worst. He is buried alive under the rubble of the hospital because of an earthquake. When awake, Shorty, a fifteen year old boy tells us the story of his life up until the quake.This man from the past was believed to be the savior. Years later, a man who saved Shorty from death was believed to be the savior of his time. These visions and stories Shorty is telling and se Kate Kearns Book review #1 In Darkness While residing in a hospital in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Shorty's life takes a turn for the worst. He is buried alive under the rubble of the hospital because of an earthquake. When awake, Shorty, a fifteen year old boy tells us the story of his life up until the quake.This man from the past was believed to be the savior. Years later, a man who saved Shorty from death was believed to be the savior of his time. These visions and stories Shorty is telling and seein make him to believe that he is the new savior. When asleep, he sees through the eyes of an abolisher of slavery in Haiti from the past. An amazing story, you will not want to stop reading In Darkness. The characters in this book are intricate, and interesting. Shorty, our main character, commits all these crimes in his run-down neighborhood with his friends, but really only truly desires his long lost twin sister. Biggie, seems like a rough and tough kid, but you will discover that he has a soft side. With every character, you learn a little more about them that adds to the book. Learning about these characters helped me learn about humans. It helped me realize even more than I already did that there are people out in the world who have really difficult lives. It Makes me realize how lucky I am to have a family, and a home. Nick Lake did an awesome job of painting a picture of the scenery. Shorty's neighborhood is run down, and basically in ruins. . Small houses one story, most made of corrugated iron or materials like that. In the past, in times of slavery, plantation owners had nice, big, lovely houses. The slaves had small bad quality cottages. It was cool to put these pictures in my mind and interpret them in my own way. This amazing book is for people who like historical fiction and dramatic books. It would be best if you were okay with violence and cursing. I highly recommend In Darkness as a reading book!

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