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In Darkness – Nick Lake

“I am the voice in the dark, calling out for your help.
I am the quiet voice that you hope will not turn to silence, the voice you want to keep hearing cos it means someone is still alive. I am the voice calling for you to come and dig me out. I am the voice in the dark, asking you to unbury me, to bring me from the grave out into the light, like a zombie.”

Shorty is trapped under the rumble of the hospital he was lying in when the earthquake struck. It is 2010, the country; Haiti. Shorty is 15, terrified, alone, in the darkness and hes reflections on life don’t exactly fill him with happiness. Growing up in the slums, his father gone and his sister taken, he was drawn into the gangster world that rules his broken down town. In the darkness, trapped under stone, metal and other people, shorty looks back over his life, and sometimes even further as his world and another seem to be drawn together.

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I had my thoughts about In Darkness before I picked it up, mainly I thought; this isn’t my kinda book, I won’t like it, and how far can one story go when the main character is stuck under rubble. It was a review book though and Id heard some amazing things about it so I picked it up and started reading. I realised three things

  1. It’s not my kind of book but that’s not to say I shouldn’t give it a try
  2. I couldn’t be more wrong if I tried, this story is so powerful and so eye-opening that there’s nothing not to like, but at the same time there are lots of things not to like (explained later…)
  3. You’d be surprised, one persons sotry can go back hundreds of years, even if that person doesn’t know it and is stuck under hundreds of tonnes of rubble!

The book really throws you in at the deep end, from the start you are Shorty, under the rubble, in the darkness, hoping to be saved. At no point in the book do you find out how long hes been under there, but its long enough for him not to know whether its been hours, days or weeks. So trapped as he is, Shorty starts going over his past, telling the reader the story of why he was in hospital in the first palce, and it starts right when his life does. Shorty’s story is a hard one and I believed every second of it because I believe that life for kids in the slums of Haiti is that difficult, and people do just die right in front of your face. Shorty’s story is an awful one, but it opened my eyes so much that I want people to read it.

Shorty’s story gets mixed with another, that of Toussaint l’Ouverture, the guy who led the Haitian Revolution and died for it over 200 years ago. The way this is weaved into the story is amazingly clever and I loved it, the mix of history was impressive but the belief in religion was incredible. I have heard of people talk about the lwa and vodou and things like that before but this book was my first real knowledge of it and it was amazing, I kept thinking in the back of my mind that it was all fake and not to be believed but the way it was written and the belief of the characters jumped out of this book and I think I could be persuaded that it was real!

Talking about the characters in this book they were a huge mix. There were gangsters, mothers, UN representatives and soldiers from the modern day, and there were Haitian slaves, Haitian soldiers, French and English soldiers and citizens from all of those countries from the past. This mix really brought about a strange image in my head but that’s what built the story up so well. There so many characters that I couldn’t possibly comment on them all however it was never confusing! The chapters are cleverly titled “now” and “then” so you always really know where you are with them. Shorty was an amazingly brave young boy. He did everything he did for his family, no matter how stupid the things he was doing were, he still thought he was doing the right thing. I loved and admired him for that.
Toussaint was very similar, he was older, around 55 I think, maybe a little older as the book went on and he was so brave after having such a crap life, he was strong and believed in himself and such a great role model! The other characters were amazing but as I said, I don’t want this review to go on forever!

I really did enjoy this book, well thats not the right word really as theres not mnuch to enjoy, but you get what I mean. It opened my eyes to how awful the world is, even now and how terrible it was just 200 years ago. The Toussaint bits of the book were a little slower than the Shorty bits but I think that might have had to do with all the Lwa stuff and the older language style used.

I will say this though, this book has a lot of swearing, a lot of death, guns and violence. Its not for the younger reader and in honesty I wouldn’t have read it because of its genre and topics when I was 15. I’m so happy I read it now but I would have been disinterested as soon as I read Toussaints names when I was 15 and that saddens me a little but I guess its just because I was a different type of reader back then and thats the one shortfall this book has, it will take a certain type of reader to want to read this book, its not for everyone, but it should be!

I urge you to read Shorty’s story, it’s heartbreaking and it opens your eyes to the god-awful world that exists for people but at the same time its amazing that one young boy can live through all that and still want the live.

In Darkness was released on January 5th by Bloomsbury. It has been released as a crossover book, with two covers for adult and young adult. My copy was sent to me for review by the publishers, thank you.

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