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In Darkness Hardcover – January 17, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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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


“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


The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; First Edition edition (January 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599907437
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599907437
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By M. Kelly on February 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti has trapped fifteen-year-old gangster Shorty under the rubble in the hospital where he has been recovering from a gunshot. As his hope for survival slowly fades, he maintains his sanity by telling his life story to the darkness that surrounds him.

This plot would be enough to hook me, but author Nick Lake makes In Darkness more compelling by alternating Shorty's story with a third person account of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Haitian slave who led a successful revolution against the French in the late 18th century. It is a powerful juxtaposition to pair Toussaint's hope and love for his beautiful nation and Shorty's despair in the slums of Port au Prince. Touissant's life is fascinating; as an older, unattractive, and uneducated slave, he is not the typical hero. Yet he accomplishes the seemingly impossible with wisdom and grace.

As much as I enjoyed learning more about Toussaint L'Ouverture, I found myself looking forward to Shorty's chapters. His plot feels so immediate and vital. The transformation of the character of Shorty is very clever. Initially, he comes across as an innocent victim of the earthquake, then his story slowly unfolds and the reader learns about the terrible things he has done. Just when he borders on unsympathetic, Lake deftly reminds the reader that there are few options available to youths in the slums and that Shorty manages to keep his humanity. Shorty describes his best friend, saying, "Sometimes I'd look at him and it was like he'd forgotten to put the shutters over his eyes, and I'd see right down to his soul, and see how much he was hurting. He was unprotected, is the best way I can say it. His manman died when he was little, and there was nothing about him that could keep bad stuff out.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Nick Lake provides an intertwined story based on two true events. The 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti is dramatically fictionalized and the overthrowing of slavery hundreds of years earlier in Haiti is attempted to be told in as true a fashion as possible. "Shorty is a Haitian boy trapped in the rubble of a hospital when an earthquake shatters the world around him." From there the reader is taken on a mystical trip back through the history of Haiti as an enslaved island hundreds of years before. The true-life character Toussaint l' Ouverture who led the Haitian slaves to freedom, and current day "Shorty" have their life stories overlap and perhaps even become one and the same in the spiritual portals of time. Though the actual time spent describing the agony and fear of being trapped in a demolished building after a monstrous earthquake is small compared to the life stories of the two protagonists... the depiction of the absolute squalor and rampant everyday crime of modern Haiti is palpable.

When you realize that dying big-headed babies discarded in trash cans are almost as natural as the sun rising in the morning... and the fact that people really do eat *MUD-PIES-MADE-OF-MUD*... then a potential reader can begin to comprehend that something as devastating as an almost totally destructive earthquake... needn't be the scariest or most depressing part of this book.

The part of Haiti described in this book has frequently been named *THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE ON EARTH!* The modern day depictions show a society that is completely dominated by "Rap" culture characters and the "murder is cool" way of life. Drugs are everywhere and a means to an end. Voodoo is omnipresent and boundaries are like mapped off war zones. Through it all...
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Format: Hardcover
In Darkness tells the story of a young thug named Shorty who's recovering from a gunshot wound in a local hospital. When a devastating earthquake hits Haiti, Shorty finds himself buried under the ruins of the former hospital. All he has left... is his will to live.

I wasn't sure if I could get through this book without shedding a few tears. We all have seen the aftermath of an earthquake while watching the news, but you can never truly experience the true effect of it unless you lived through it.

Nick Lake does an extraordinary job of capturing moments of Shorty's life trapped in the rubble. In the beginning of the book, I felt myself grasping for air as though I was trapped with Shorty. While he was trapped in the ruins, he finds himself dreaming of Toussaint L'Ouverture, a former slave who led the revolution of Haiti. I didn't particularly care for the back and forth between Shorty & Toussaint life, but once I realized the connection between the two characters, it became an easier read. In Darkness is a powerful read. I would definitely recommend this book.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This book could easily serve as a writing template. While it's not classic perfection of "To Kill a Mockingbird" (technically superior in so many ways), it holds up well. But the material may not be for everyone...hence the few negative reviews preceeding this one. (But what book is?)
This book has; Vivid prose. Multiple plots. Believable characters. Intelligence. Lean story telling. A compelling narrative voice.... in both the NOW and THEN passages. Surprise. And it never stumbles along on wasted scenery or meaningless sub-characters. Every person in the story has a place and reason.
I have only one complaint regarding a revelation at the very end. It garnered a,"What? That makes no sense! Why would they do that?" from me.
But, barring that, i'm recommending it to my kids.
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