Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In Darkness

In Darkness book jacket
In Darkness


Lake, Nick. 2012. In Darkness. New York: Bloomsbury.  ISBN 978-1599907437


            Shorty is a 15 year old Haitian boy who has witnessed the brutal murder of his father and the capture of his twin sister.  Now, trapped in a collapsed hospital with a bullet in his arm drinking blood to survive he remembers how he came to be injured and he begins to hallucinate.  Through the hallucinations of Toussaint L'ouverture and his battle against Napoleon to free the slaves of Haiti, Shorty finds his strength and an unexpected connection to a man long dead.


            Jumping back and forth in time, In Darkness is a haunting analysis of life and tragedy in Haiti.  Although the novel is fiction, certain circumstances presented within the pages have the authenticity of real tragedy occurring within a country controlled by gangs.  The struggle to survive is clearly defined within the work. The title is fitting in many ways. Shorty struggles to survive in a collapsed hospital surrounded by darkness.  But more than physical darkness is the bleak dark of oppression and tragedy which permeates the pages of Lake's novel. Shorty clearly establishes the bleakness of his situation when he says in darkness I count my blessings and the only blessing he can count is that he is alive. 

            Shorty's hallucinations show the reader as much about the state of his physical existence as it does his emotional state.  The desire to help free the Haitian slaves from the French is as much about his desire to be free from the oppression of the future as it is about the history of a nation. 

            Woven into the novel are comments about guns and the desire to kill.  The want to end a life combined with the knowledge that to do so would be morally wrong battles within Shorty.  And yet, sometimes the only way to survive is to keep others at bay or join forces with those who are in power.

            Further, Lake presents the idea of power joined with responsibility.  L'ouverture faces the dilemma of freeing the slaves only to have to control the situation which follows and of the possibility of going from one oppressor to another. 

            In Darkness offers a glimmer of hope without providing any answers or resolutions to the problem of life in Haiti.  It is a dark and engulfing story of pain and danger combined with a level of enticement which does not often find its way into young adult literature.



·         Michael Printz Award

·         ALA Best Fiction for Young Readers

·         Carnegie Medal in Literature Nominee

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