I’m going to recommend something unusual, but then this is an unusual book. Before you begin, take a peek at the authors’ note at the end, and yes, I have the apostrophe in the right place. The young adult novel, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, is written by sisters Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite. The authors’ note gives background for their protagonists as well as how the story came to them, information that makes their fictional tale more interesting.
They write as Haitian Americans with a full understanding of how life goes haywire for Alaine Beauparlant whose punishment for a school assignment gone wrong is a two-month spring volunteer project in Haiti, the land of her family, though she is a first-generation American. Her famous television correspondent mother has an embarrassing on-air incident simultaneously with Alaine’s misstep that will also send her to Haiti. The mother’s diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease is a secret that leaks out little by little. Since Alaine has lived with her father after the divorce of her parents, she will be spending more time with her mother than she ever has just as her mother’s behavior becomes more unpredictable.
The plot thickens in Haiti as Alaine’s assigned volunteer task, under the watchful eye of her Tati Estelle, involves a nonprofit with questionable use of money, a family curse, betrayals by previous generations that affect the lives of the current one, and a distractingly cute male intern who keeps turning up.
In the beginning, with much of the narrative spliced with tweets and emails, I relegated the book to being yet another teen novel, but I found it more than that with issues of honesty, relationships, and heritage. While it is richly filled with Haitian tradition, the book also covers much that is common to all human experience. Those who love the richness of reading about cultures other than their own as well as young adults will enjoy the book. I don’t know how two people can seamlessly write one book, but these sisters have done it.