In Darkness

Nick Lake, Author
Nick Lake. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-59990-743-7
Reviewed on: 11/07/2011
Release date: 01/17/2012
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.)
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