I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.
"Dear Haiti, Love Alaine" follows seventeen-year-old Haitian American Alaine. Alaine lives in Miami with her father and has a famous mother who is a reporter living in Washington, D.C. Alaine is what I think most people would call "too much." She is definitely intelligent and it seems holds some pain over the fact that her mother is barely around due to her job and late breaking stories. Her actions in this book made my head hurt. She does a prank to get back at someone and almost ends up killing another classmate. She gets suspended although she was initially threatened with being expelled. As a way to make amends at her school she is supposed to do an assignment on her family's history in Haiti.
So Alaine was aggravating. She ends up going back to Haiti to stay with her aunt and mother for two months and learns barely anything I think about the history of the country. Instead this book focuses on her mother and aunt's history, a cousin with her own messed up sense of values, and curses. I think that if the authors had just focused on Alaine that would have worked better. I really wish that we had Alaine exploring Haiti and finding out about the history of the country. She works at her aunt's foundation and is crushing on an intern. They have a lot of IMs and texts to each other and she just stumbles on information about her family by people just giving her that information.
I can't say much about the secondary characters because they barely matter in this book. Alaine's father is written so weird as is the mother. We know that they both came from Haiti, but we don't get into why they got divorced. And the authors try to throw a little out there about why Alaine's mother had her go live with her father full-time but it made zero sense and then you throw in family curses and I just didn't care anymore. Due to the writing style we flip flop all over the place and you can barely focus on anyone.
The writing style was not for me. The authors decided to tell this story via Alaine's online journal I think and also included excerpts from her mother's diary, letters between her aunt, mother, texts, newspaper articles, etc. I felt like I was being stuffed with information and not a lot of it made sense. Also certain words or whole paragraphs here and there were in red. Also sometimes the fonts would be really big and then change all over the place. I have no idea why that was and I hope that's just a weird formatting issue with my ARC and is not going to be issued like this. I get why "House of Leaves" did certain things to make the book more immersive for readers. This book is not "House of Leaves."
The book mainly takes place in Miami and Haiti. You don't get a sense of Miami at all and the authors take more care to describe Haiti. I am disappointed though that I am still left with not knowing much about Haiti besides two women's names who kept getting mentioned: Marie-Madeline Lachenais and Marie-Louise Coidavid. I really wish the authors had gone into more of its history and how the country had changed through the centuries when under Spanish, French, and American rule. I also wanted to hear more about how the people in the country spoke French as well as Creole. I was fascinated by that and it was just thrown here and there as an aside.
The ending was a mess. I don't want to get into it, but good grief I don't know what the authors were aiming for in this story. Curses are real?
So disappointed with this one. I was hoping for a book that explored the history of Haiti in a modern setting. Too bad that this book was all over the place. The authors chose to tell the story via Alaine (a 17 year old Haitian descendant of some of the founding mothers of Haiti) but decided to have everything be discussed via journal entries, text messages, newspaper stories, letters, emails, etc. It was too much. Also some of the text was in red. I have no idea what that was even about. It was distracting and I was unable to concentrate through the whole thing.
The idea though that Alaine's family is dealing with a curse was too much. The whole book got a bit ridiculous after she gets to sent to Haiti for a school prank that could have killed someone. I think that's the biggest issue I had with Alaine. She doesn't see that she has caused issues and wants to be able to blame anyone else for things that she has a hand in. Due to the writing style I wasn't able to gel with her as a character. Everyone else reads like a caricature at times.