Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Mildly Epic In Darkness

I wanted to like this book. I wanted to like this book so much. Partially because it is this year's Printz winner. And partially because it is a really interesting idea. I just couldn't. It wasn't a bad a book and I can see why some people like it. Nick Lake is a fantastic writer but it just wasn't for me.

I like books that I get emotionally invested in and this was not one of them. I read everything with a calm that bordered on disinterest. I just couldn't bring myself to care as much about the characters as I wanted to.

As I was reading it felt a little like Nick Lake stepped back from the personal feelings of the characters to set the drama on a grander scale. I understand why the need the a grander scale is present, because this book is just as much, if not more so about Haiti than these two characters. That acknowledged, these characters go through so much struggle and, especially for Shorty, it becomes such a personal battle that the emotional separation shouldn't have been as great.

I feel like Where Things Come Back has opened this raw wound at the idea of losing a sibling. I feel like that book made it feel especially real and possible and I feel like, since I read it, I've been particularly sensitive to stories where characters lose siblings. Even though losing Margurite is cited as the reason he does almost everything he does I didn't really get that sense when reading.

We were told repeatedly that Shorty was half a person and though he and Toussaint sort of complete each other, he thinks it's Margurite that is his other half. But the pain of her loss was missing from the writing. It didn't come across that Shorty was only half a person we were just told repeatedly until we knew it was true even if it didn't seem true.

I felt like that was the case for quite a bit of the text. We were told things repeatedly until we knew them to be true even if we didn't really believe it. It left me with the impression that I was watching a news story or reading something in a history book. I knew what happened but didn't feel like I knew the characters at all.

All of that griping aside, Nick Lake does a wonderful job intertwining the two stories together. The parallels are just brilliant (though he seems to go to great lengths to connect them rather than letting the reader connect them ourselves). It's a connection between two different characters that I feel not a lot of people would have made themselves. It's a startling and wonderful way of connecting the struggles of Haiti.

Shorty's stories gave the reader a good grasp on the kind of life in the Site. It's this strange combination of reverence for American culture and European influence while trying to stay Haitian. Then the sense of violence and much of it senseless is just horrifying but striking.

Which, I think is what Nick Lake really excels at: culture and connections. Those were more what I took away from the book than anything that had to do with the characters. And I think I would have enjoyed the book more if those were what had been stressed but it seemed like an attempt to write about these characters but it didn't play to his strengths.

So, though it's a good book, I give In Darkness a rating of: Sort-Of Epic.

I wanted to like it. Have any of you read it? What did you think?

Next I'll continue my awards reading with Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I would have picked this one up on my own eventually. It's been on the list.

Until later!


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