In Darkness, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


WINNER of the 2013 Printz Award. In darkness, I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One: I am alive. Two: there is no two. In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, a boy is trapped beneath the rubble of a ruined hospital, thirsty, terrified and alone.

Shorty is a child of the slums, a teenage boy who has seen enough violence to last a lifetime, and who has been inexorably drawn into the world of the gangsters who rule Site Soley; men who dole out money with one hand and death with the other.

But Shorty has a secret: a flame of revenge that blazes inside him and a burning wish to find the twin sister he lost seven years ago . . .


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: General
  • ISBN: 9781408819951

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This is a dark story of slavery, cruelty and poverty both of the body and the spirit. I found it difficult to read, although it is thoughtfully, and sometimes beautifully, written.Shorty, a child gangster from the notorious slums of Port au Prince, tells us the tale of his life as he lies trapped in the ruins of a hospital after the 2010 Haitian earthquake. It is not an easy story to hear as this young boy has seen and done terrible things. He tells it without self-pity. As Shorty lies trapped, he becomes aware of another with him, and his story is intertwined with that of Toussaint l'Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian slave revolt against the French in 1792. This is an interesting device that draws a telling parallel between the past and present - there are different kinds of darkness, and different kinds of slavery.One of the darknesses in both lives is the practice of vodou which both Shorty and Toussaint see as false, even as it influences and shapes their lives. Nick Lake does not make a judgement about it - the ambiguity is part of the darkness.In Darkness has been shortlisted for the 2013 Carnegie Medal, and it is a worthy contender for its engaging central character, composition and compelling subject-matter. I would not recommend it to a child under 14 however - partly because of the strong language and violence, but mainly because there is something rather nasty about it. I felt uncomfortable whilst reading it - which is not necessarily a bad thing, indeed it rather underlines what an excellently written book it is, no one should feel comfortable reading about violence and misery - but despite the many good things about it I am left feeling ambiguous, and I will not want to read it again.

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