Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite
When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…
You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?
Actually, a lot.
Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I'm spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a "spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.
All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.
You know, typical drama. But it's nothing I can't handle.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine was all over the place.
It would be fair to say that a mixed-media novel in ebook format may not be the best means of experiencing this. Even aside from shifting through tweets and realtime action and various owners’ journal entries… I felt like the authors didn’t know where they wanted to go with the novel. The book starts off with Alaine at school, not taking an assignment seriously and waiting for her famous mom to visit. Throughout the story it bounces between Alaine’s rich family history, Haiti’s history, breaking a curse, working at a non-profit, and adapting to having a parent with Alzheimer’s. Each of these topics on their own are potent, but when they’re smooshed together in a single novel, strings get tangled and it’s a lot.
As a reader, I feel like this novel would have been more engaging if Alaine went to Haiti to be with her mother, or if she went to Haiti to face the island’s history and learn to appreciate her heritage. Tangling the two together lessened the power both potential storylines had. I liked the concepts of all the different plot lines, but I had to keep checking myself to figure out where Alaine was and why. The constant disentangling pulled me out of the story, and I never felt like I was able to fully engage with it. Add to that the mixed media aspect where not only was I deciphering the plot, but the medium as well… it got frustrating.
Alaine is a great character with a lot of spirit and love in her. Her family and their history are all interesting. I’m not really sure what the love interest/not love interest situation was here, but I do think that the intern romance was unnecessary and not enough time was spent on it. I’m actually not sure if there was supposed to be a budding romance? It felt like they were thinking about it, but never really followed through. It was another one of those situations where there was too much going on at once. Another piece of interest – the political drama – got lost in the foray. So many interesting bits and pieces, and just… a mess. And while the characters were good, they didn’t really carry it. Plot is difficult to rate for this one because the ideas were really interesting, but I thought the execution was poor.
All that said, I really like that we’re seeing a Haitian heroine? Central America and the Caribbean islands are tragically missing from most of YA, and Alaine as herself was a breath of fresh air. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her, to be honest… I just want a tighter plot. I swear! That’s all I’m asking!
So while the writing felt a bit sloppy and the story scattered, there’s definitely some underlying talent. I think I’d pick up another book by the Moulite sisters, especially once they’ve honed their craft a little more. But, a word about that…. The NetGalley ARC was a copy still clearly in the editing phase. Some paragraphs looked to have been moved around, sentences ended in the middle, and there was a lot of text in red… so you get the impression that this manuscript really is proof and more work is being done. I remain hopeful that a lot of the issues I had with the messiness in the plot will be resolved in the final edition.
Which books have you read that take place in the Caribbean islands? I genuinely think that Dear Haiti, Love Alaine may have been my first, and I’m thirsty for more. Share your recommendations in the comments!