Publisher's Note:  

Bloomsbury is proud to be the global publisher of In Darkness, a stunning tour-de-force set in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. "Shorty" is a Haitian boy trapped in the ruins of a hospital when the earth explodes around him. Surrounded by lifeless bodies and growing desperately weak from lack of food and water, death seems imminent. Yet as Shorty waits in darkness for a rescue that may never come, he becomes aware of another presence, one reaching out to him across two hundred years of history. It is the presence of slave and revolutionary leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, whose life was marred by violence, and whose own end came in darkness. What unites a child of the slums with the man who would shake a troubled country out of slavery? Is it the darkness they share . . . or is it hope?

Raw, harrowing, and peopled with vibrant characters, In Darkness is an extraordinary book about the cruelties of man and nature, and the valiant, ongoing struggle for a country's very survival.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Bloomsbury Children's Books

In Darkness

by Nick Lake

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Overall Review:  

In Darkness is anything but an easy read. The storyline moves between the violent, gritty, and often hopeless streets of modern Haiti—where gangs rule and the United Nations offers very little help—and the harsh conditions of plantation slaves in 18th-century Haiti. Readers get to know Shorty, a young teenager who was brought into a gang at age twelve and is now trapped in the rubble of a hospital after the massive earthquake in 2010, and Toussaint L'Ouverture, the middle-aged leader of the Haiti slave rebellion of 1791. Both stories are stark and moving, and both contain an abundance of brutality, cruelty, and sadness. At times, I found myself having to put the book down for awhile to deal with the intensity of the stories. But ultimately, this is a book I'm glad I read; even through the darkness of both Shorty and Toussaint's stories, filled as they are with violence and pain, the light of hope and redemption emerges. In Darkness is a hard book to read, and not the kind of book I'd casually pass on or recommend to friends. Reading this book was a journey, at times very dark and difficult—but in the end, it's one I'm glad I've taken.


Although the protaganist is a young teenager, and In Darkness is marketed as a Young Adult novel, the grim storyline and abundance of brutal violence makes this book much better suited for older adults. 

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language: 4 religious exclamations; 8 mild obscenities; 3 religious profanities; 9 derogatory names; 17 anatomical terms; 61 scatalogical terms; 55 F-word derivatives.


Violence/Gore: There are numerous (20+) references to people getting shot or killed, usually mentioned in passing but occasionally with brief detail. Several references are made to a teen being shot. A teen says his father was "chopped up" by gang members. A teen is trapped in a fallen hospital and surrounded by dead bodies. A teen drinks blood from the ground to avoid dying of thirst. A woman is blown to bits by a machine gun. A woman bleeds heavily after giving birth. A story is told about a baby being left in the trash, and several references are made to this practice as well as to the supposed voudo practice of "grinding up babies" to make spells. References are made to a rebellion that was stopped bloodily. A scene involves a man being buried alive as part of a ritual. A reference is made to a man's eyes being put out. Several references are made to rape. A lynched man is cut down from a tree (brief but detailed description). A rebellion destroys property. A reference is made to a mob boss cutting off appendages as punishment. A man is attacked and murdered by a gang in a scene that lasts several pages (this scene is quite gory). A girl is kidnapped. A reference is made to slaves committing suicide. A story is told about a baby being murdered in front of its mother. A man drags a woman behind his horse. A slave is brutally whipped and the aftermath is described (very gory); he is also beheaded and the beheading is described in an extended scene lasting several pages. A slave is raped and beaten. A male slave is beaten. A story is told about a man being shot in the face (blood and gore are described). In an extended scene lasting several pages, soldiers open fire on a crowd (blood and gore are described). A man is crucified and mutilated. A man plans a massacre. A second-hand reference is made to a man beating his son. An extended scene of several pages deals with a battle. A twelve year old is made to shoot a man as part of a gang initiation. A fight between two teens results in blood and gore. A boy threatens a girl with a gun. An extended scene (two pages) describes a violent riot. An extended scene of several pages describes a gang fight in which people are shot and large explosions cause mass casualties. A man gives orders to burn a city. An extended scene (two pages) describes the attack and shooting of gang members by soldiers. A man is described as lying in a pool of blood. Two gangs fight. A man is ambushed at gunpoint and forcibly imprisoned; a man is left to starve to death in a prison cell. A story is told of a young girl being killed by gang members.


Sex/Nudity: A mention is made of a girl sleeping with a man. A non-sexual but crude reference is made to genitalia. A reference is made to a woman attempting to seduce a man. Rape is mentioned on several occasions. A man kisses two girls. Two men kiss as part of a demonstration. A reference is made to tongue kissing. A boy tells a girl to take her clothes off. A girl is pregnant out of wedlock.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Poverty, gang violence, murder, slavery, brutalities towards slaves and others.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

A teen describes making offerings of whiskey and cigars to a god. Teens and adults drink. Teens and adults use and sell drugs frequently. A witch doctor smokes a kind of pipe.

Reviewed By CindyB
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