I don’t know how to describe Dear Haiti, Love Alaine. It is so extraordinarily good. The format, the characters (especially Alaine), the voice, the exploration of Haiti and Alaine’s family’s past. It’s all so good. So, before this turns into unintelligible mess, let’s get to the review
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Quick-witted high school journalist Alaine Beauparlant gets booted from her elite private school after an intricate prank goes cruelly awry. She warily accepts an invitation from her aunt to spend her suspension at the family’s estate in Haiti–where her estranged mom is recuperating from a political fiasco. In her homeland for the first time, Alaine is immediately put to work at her aunt’s start-up helping native children in need. Alaine meets locals, interacts with kids connected to donors, and is shown the ropes by Jason, a fellow intern whose charming ways are making work a bit more challenging. What she doesn’t expect to find are letters, articles, emails, and diary entries that she compiles into a final project that will not only save her academic standing in school, but also help her finally know the mother she’s never really understood.
You would not be wrong if you said Alaine’s life is a bit of a mess. Her mother just slapped and yelled at a politician on TV (her mother is a famous newsperson), everyone in Alaine’s school knows about it, and to get back at the mean girls who made fun of her for it, Alaine…how do I put this into words? She was supposed to do a presentation about Haiti and instead of doing what her teacher signed off on, Alaine brings in a cake shaped like a pig and when she cuts it open, fake blood goes everywhere causing one kid to go into anaphylactic shock.
Needless to say, Alaine gets into a huge amount of trouble and instead of finishing off the school year or GETTING EXPELLED, Alaine’s parents decide it would be a good idea if she had a break. So, they send her to Haiti where both her parents are originally from. Her mom is already living there, trying to lay low after slapping a politician. Her aunt also lives there and is the Haitian Minister of Tourism as well as the CEO of Patron Pal, an app that allows people to support kids who needs food, school supplies, and money to make their lives better. Alaine will be working as an intern while she is there.
So, Alaine heads to Haiti and absolutely loves it. She meets new friends, family members she hasn’t seen in awhile, and even gets to know a cute boy who she works with. But not everything goes as she expects. When she learns why her mother slapped the politician and why she isn’t going back to being a news anchor, Alaine’s life begins to spiral. Her mom is sick and Alaine will do just about anything to make it all better.
Ok, before I go further, you need to know one thing. Alaine has been told by her aunt for most of her life that their family is cursed. Alaine has never believed this but once she gets to Haiti, meets other people who believe in the curse, and learns of her mother’s illness, she begins to believe it, and this leads her down a road of adventure, past family trauma, death, and maybe a little bit of magic.
Alaine decides she needs to break the curse on her family in order to cure her mother and she is willing to do just about anything to get more time with her mom. Even if that means taking a dangerous boat trip and risking other people’s lives.
Alright, y’all know how much I love a uniquely formatted book and this is one of those. It’s written like Alaine os telling the story of her trip to Haiti to her teacher back at school. It includes emails, documents, diary entries, and Alaine’s firsthand accounts. I love when authors do this and I am in awe of Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite. The way they combined all these different elements to create a cohesive story is unbelievable.
And Alaine’s voice could not be stronger. Sometimes when a book written by multiple people, the style or the voice changes. That is not the case with Dear Haiti, Love Alaine. It is flawless. Alaine is fun and quirky and shy at times and smart as hell. I love when a character has a strong voice and I could not have asked for anything more here.
I also LOVED the development of Alaine and her mom’s relationship. They started off really distant but as they spent more time together and as Alaine got to know more about her past, they became much closer.
The story begins with Alaine not caring too much for her mom but once she finds out her mother won’t be around forever, she panics and that starts them both down a road that results in an unbreakable bond . You don’t go through what they do without bonding in some way.
And yes, of course I cried. I was so hoping Alaine would find some magical cure for her mom despite knowing this wasn’t going to turn into a fantasy novel. Her journey made me think of my own mom and how I never want to let her go.
I treasure books like these because they help me understand that I will be ok when she’s gone. I’ll, of course, be utterly devastated, but there will still be things to live for. I can live past it. (and now I’m crying again lol)
The book also covers the devastation Haiti is still going through after the multiple natural disasters they’ve had there. It was good to see those real events incorporated into the story.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a beautiful story of a teenage girl coming to accept the things she can’t change and learning to hold onto the moments she has with her loved ones. She also happens to uncover some shady shit going on with her aunt’s app business and a certain politician (the one her mom slapped!). There are lots of surprises in this story and I loved everyone of them.
I am giving Dear Haiti, Love Alaine 4.5 out of 5 stars. If you’re looking for a diverse read with a brilliant main character, an insanely well-developed and well-written story, and some laughs and tears along the way, you need to check this out.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine comes out September 3, 2019
Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the free eARC in exchange for my honest review.