Shorty, 15, is in a Haitian hospital with a bullet in his arm when the walls fall down during an earthquake. As he waits for help, drinking blood to try to quench his thirst, he remembers how he got to the hospital and the haunting gang violence he witnessed in the slums: his beloved twin sister was taken; his father was chopped to pieces. His mother loved freedom-fighter Aristide, but his father did not. Shorty’s present-day narrative switches back and forth with an historical plotline set in the eighteenth century, when Touissant l’Ouverture, a former slave, led Haiti in the fight for freedom, calling for justice, not vengeance, in the struggle to emancipate the slaves. The constantly shifting narratives, large cast of characters, and cultural detail may overwhelm some readers, and the unspeakable brutality is not for the fainthearted. But older readers, especially those who have seen the devastating footage of Haiti’s recent earthquake, will want to read about the grim, contemporary drama and the inspiring history. Grades 10-12. --Hazel Rochman
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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
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