The main character, Shorty, is trapped in darkness in the rubble of a hospital after the earthquake that decimated the country. As he tries to tunnel his way out, he senses another "being" or presence, that of Toussaint Louverture. Louverture is the 19th century revolutionary who freed Haiti from France and from slavery. Shorty thinks he is dying or hallucinating as this mystical connection between himself and his hero is made. In alternating chapters the two, Shorty and Louverture, tell their stories of oppression and hope, of slavery and poverty.
Printz Award Committee Chair Sharon Grover said about this winning selection, "This bold weaving of gritty contemporary drama, revolutionary history, and magical realism tells a one-of-a-kind story as fiercely intelligent as it is heartbreakingly honest."
This book would be an ideal audiobook. The frequent use of Creole and French words and phrases often left me in the dark. Though translations were provided, I didn't know how to pronounce the words. This is one of my favorite reasons for listening to books rather than reading them. At the time I first checked on Amazon.com the audiobook was out-of-stock. Obviously I'm wasn't the only one to have this thought.
Though not my favorite book of the year (my vote, if I had one, went to The Fault in Our Stars), I did learn a ton about Haiti's history and current conditions. It is obvious that the author Nick Lake did a ton of research and deserved all the praise he received for this work. Printz Award books often become shelf-sitters in my library because they are well-written but do not appeal to the general teen population. I hope this is not the case with this book. In an attempt to increase its circulation I will purchase the audiobook and suggest it to the English teachers for inclusion in the world literature reading circle kits.