In Darkness | Nick Lake | Book Review

To me, the application of an award seal on a book’s cover instantly makes the book more appealing. I am one of those people who is swayed by the judgment of others and so, when books win awards, I want to read them even if I never made them a priority before. I read In Darkness by Nick Lake because it recently won the Printz award and I totally figured that the librarians who chose this book probably know what they are doing, so it’s probably going to be the literary sort of book that makes me think. Reader friends, In Darkness definitely gave me a lot to ponder and I am glad that I read it, however, I wish that I had reviewed it sooner rather than waiting until months after finishing it. Alas, that is the life of a procrastinator, love it or leave it.

In Darkness by Nick Lake | Good Books And Good Wine

Remember those earthquakes that basically decimated a lot of Haiti? I remember them happening and watching on the news about how awful the situation was there and how the people were suffering. It never really hit home for me though, because yeah you can watch one minute clips of something happening but you never really get into their heads during the whole event. In Darkness takes place during the earthquakes. The main character, Shorty, finds himself trapped under rubble in the destruction occurring because of the earthquakes. While trapped, he worries and is scared. He also has these flashbacks of his life leading up to the earthquake and of his long lost twin sister. Shorty also begins to have these hallucinations where he manifests as Touissant L’Ouverture and the two seem to be one and the same and magically connected. It’s really a book full of symbolism and metaphor which I do not quite have the skills to explain to you just yet.

Nick Lake’s Shorty is living a hard knock life. He lives in one of the Port Au Prince ghettos. His dad was murdered when he was a kid. His sister was kidnapped, possibly also murdered. Shorty lives with his mother in relative poverty. So, he joins a gang lead by this guy named Biggie. Biggie starts to treat Shorty as a protege. As a reader, I can’t help but think NO DON’T DO THAT YOU ARE MAKING A BAD LIFE CHOICE because I have been lucky enough to never be in Shorty’s position. I feel like he was making the bad choices because he felt that was the only way he could survive and thrive amid the poverty that surrounds him. I mean, life is very, very dangerous in Site Soley. Like, you guys, Shorty shoots a man when he is twelve. JUST TWELVE. Shit, I was still playing with Barbies at that age (I was a late bloomer, psh). Each time I would find myself feeling judgmental, I would just remind myself of how different my station in life is. In Darkness by Nick Lake is quite the eyeopener.

Touissant L’Ouverture plays a relatively huge role in In Darkness and I am glad because I did not know a ton of information about him before reading. Touissant is an actual person who really did exist. In Darkness endeared him to me. I really liked his character, so much so that I put ‘Touissant is so cool’ as one of my goodreads updates. Ah, I am weird. Anyways, while reading I found myself looking forward to the parts where Shorty would visualize Touissant.

If I am being honest with you, I will admit that In Darkness by Nick Lake is a slow read. It is not something that I was able to quickly rip through. It was a book that really took a lot of processing and thinking for me. It’s also one that made me have these reactions because it’s so gritty and dark and unflinching. I would recommend this book to readers who do not need to finish a book in 2 days or less, but who are willing to take their time with a literary sort of read. In Darkness is a stark and vivid rendering of the 2010 Haitian earthquakes and deeply affecting.

Disclosure: Review Copy Obtained At BEA 2011

Other reviews of In Darkness by Nick Lake:

Electrifying Reviews – “a unique book which deals with some heavy topics
The Book Of Tomorrow – “a story of survival and endurance
Ink Scratchers – “I loved how honest this book was

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. IN DARKNESS sounds like a very different read, but not in a bad way. I love the idea of this story, even though I’d probably have a hard time getting into the main character’s head. Still, I’d definitely want to give it a chance, particularly as an award-winning book. (I seriously think it was my mom’s influence. She had me winning award-winners growing up!)
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