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In Darkness

In Darkness

4.1 7
by Nick Lake

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This is the story of "Shorty"-a 15-year-old boy trapped in a collapsed hospital during the earthquake in Haiti. Surrounded by the bodies of the dead, increasingly weak from lack of food and water, Shorty begins to hallucinate. As he waits in darkness for a rescue that may never come, a mystical bridge seems to emerge between him and Haitian leader Toussaint


This is the story of "Shorty"-a 15-year-old boy trapped in a collapsed hospital during the earthquake in Haiti. Surrounded by the bodies of the dead, increasingly weak from lack of food and water, Shorty begins to hallucinate. As he waits in darkness for a rescue that may never come, a mystical bridge seems to emerge between him and Haitian leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, uniting the two in their darkest suffering-and their hope.A modern teen and a black slave, separated by hundreds of years. Yet in some strange way, the boy in the ruins of Port au Prince and the man who led the struggle for Haiti's independence might well be one and the same . . .

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
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 Soléy (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
Publishers Weekly
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.)
From the Publisher

“A vivid and unforgettable voice ... incredibly moving.” —The Times

“Unputdownable” —Daily Mail

“Gripping ... beautifully subtle.” —New York Times

“Both violent and subtle, unexpectedly reminding me of The Wire. Characters, settings, and the half-believed Haitian vodou religion are handled with patience and complexity ... A serious, nuanced, challenging novel. Trust me, there are plenty of young readers who hunger for exactly that.” —Patrick Ness, Guardian

“Remarkable ... Lake's elegant, restrained prose and distinct characters will reward adults and older teenagers able to brave a story with strong language, harrowing scenes of brutality and an almost painful stab of joy at the end.” —Wall Street Journal

VOYA - Matthew Weaver
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. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver
Children's Literature - Nancy Partridge
The setting is Haiti after the earthquake of 2010. Shorty is a teenage boy trapped under a collapsed building there. Alone and in total darkness, he lapses in and out of consciousness as he reflects on his life. Part truth and part fantastic fiction, a picture emerges of a boy who is held captive not only by stone and earth, but also by the history of his troubled culture. The book moves back and forth in time from Shorty's first-person account of his childhood in Site Soley, the major Haitian slum run by thugs and drug runners, to a third-person narrative of revolutionary leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, who led an actual slave revolt in Haiti in the 18th century. Their stories alternate by chapters. Shorty's voice and street slang contrast sharply with the slightly academic and detached manner of L'Ouverture's story. Voodoo and violence abound in both realities; for example, L'Overture attends a ceremony to invoke possession by dead spirits, and Shorty sees his own father killed. As he lies dying beneath the rubble, the boy dreams he is the black revolutionary; similarly, L'Ourverture dreams of flying as a young boy into a future Haiti, free from slavery, but lying in the ruins of some great natural disaster. The two share a single soul, and their intertwined destinies paint a dark and trembling portrait of a country relegated through the centuries to darkness and neglect. While the transition between the two narratives is not always smooth, the book is incredibly powerful and does its job well. Lake clarifies what is real and what is not in an "Author's Note" at the end. Readers will certainly come away with a much deeper cultural awareness than any factual account of the natural disaster could ever achieve. While the raw depictions of violence and black magic make the book inappropriate for younger grades, it is sure to inspire lively and engaged discussion in high school classrooms. Reviewer: Nancy Partridge
Kirkus Reviews
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)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
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Barnes & Noble
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Nick Lake is the much-acclaimed author of In Darkness, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award, and Hostage Three, which received three starred reviews and was named a Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Boston Globe Best Book of the Year. Nick became fascinated by Haitian culture while pursuing his master's degree in linguistics. He is also the Publishing Director for fiction at HarperCollins Children's Books UK, and lives near Oxford, England. Visit him online at www.in-darkness.org and on Twitter at @nicklakeauthor.

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In Darkness 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
WOW! What a book! I have never read an introduction to a book that is so jaw dropping intense! I had no choice but to keep reading!! In history class, I always learned about US history of slaves. We did learn some things about the UK, but not about it's slave history. After finishing the book and reading the author notes, I'm very happy that even though this was a work of fiction, it did include some real people. The characters in this book felt so real while reading it that it takes your breathe away. Mr. Lake weaves a beautiful story of darkness and survival. Mr. Lake paints vivid images with his writing so the reader see and feels everything!! What I enjoyed most about the book is the great characters in it that make a major impact not only in their lives but in the lives around them. Both Shorty and Toussaint faced a great ordeal in their lives yet they wanted a change. At first, I couldn't see the connection between these two characters. Mr. lake wrote two similar stories with two different eras. All revolving around the same thing. Some of the events in story made me cringe. To feel and see what they went through just broke my heart. This book is one amazing story. With a powerful beginning, the darkness of the world evades the readers mind. Dark and gritty, this book truly open your eyes.
amydelrosso More than 1 year ago
Oh. My. Goodness. Nick Lake has written a phenomenal story. He did so with such emotion and horrific facts that I was teetering back and forth on the brink of shock and tears. There were so many facts interlaced through the entire story, it's almost as if IN DARKNESS was written as non-fiction. Lake did an amazing job with explaining the devastation of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. Life details of slave and black revolutionary leader Toussaint L'Ouverture were intertwined with the present day character, Shorty and his life events living in the slums of Site Soleil. Each time period held it's own trouble for each man. Both were violent and desolate. Both Shorty and Toussaint lived an austere and future-less life, their days were filled with death, violence and a desire for something better. Lake does a brilliant job capturing the devastation and raw emotion. He also has the amazing ability to capture the raw and heart-wrenching feelings that belong to these characters. He makes you feel as if you are right there with them and going through the horrific tragedy that brought Haiti to its knees. IN DARKNESS is desolate, gritty and harsh. Nick Lake weaves it all together with a hint of promise. In my opinion this novel is a must read. -From The Authors Note: "Route 9 and Boston and the war between them - are real, as is nearly every detail of life in Site Soleil. It is one of the poorest, most violent slums in existence, even more so now in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. It has frequently been named as the most dangerous place on earth. People really did, and do, eat pies made of mud, such as their desperation. Babies really were, and are, left to die on piles of trash. For years, the slum was virtually cut off by roadblocks and especially during the bloody period in the first decade of the new century, police and attaches were accused many times of shooting unarmed civilians during demonstrations and home invasions. Many residents simply disappeared, never to be seen again."
Icecream18JA More than 1 year ago
The best quality of this book is the raw emotion. The author writes beautifully, capturing the tone and syntax the main characters would have utilized. The author incorporates Haiti's earthquake to the country's attempts at liberation. The plot line flows perfectly, the reader will not be confused at all with the switching view points. The reader will be introduced to both characters early on in the book and will get to know and like them both within the first few chapters. The Goodreads summary does a wonderful job of explaining the plot. The events are fast-paced and there is plenty of action and suspense to keep the reader turning the pages. The characters are very likable, they both have qualities that make them very similar. The main characters are brave, resilient, strong, and charismatic in many ways. The secondary characters mold the main characters into who they are; in that way, they do have a large impact on the story. The author is very descriptive, the reader will be able to picture the scenes and environment. Overall, this book is a terrific read. The reader will see the parallels between modern day Haiti and the sordid past. The reader will be able to connect with the main characters and think of them as friends, he/she will be rooting for them. There is a raw intensity to this book that makes it very hard to put down, the reader will likely finish the book within a day or two. This book is highly recommended to young adult/adult readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A unique view from the inside
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago