Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Available For Pre-Order: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
Summary: 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.
*Requested ARC from publisher*
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a YA Contemporary debut from sisters Maika and Maritza who seamlessly weave together a tale of family, healing, and much more! Alaine’s narrative voice presents an intimate and personal depth to her perspective as we explore her family and her Haitian culture, alongside her journey of self-growth! The use of mixed media also offers a unique depth that provides so many layers to this complex and immersive debut!
There’s something both personal and special that comes with reading about someone’s life through the use of primary sources like letters, emails, diary entries, articles etc. It captures the depth of emotions and snapshots of one’s life in unique ways you just can’t get through prose. Maika and Maritza Moulite truly showcased the emotion and personal journey through the main character of Alaine Beauparlant!
Alaine is an aspiring journalist with dreams of pursuing this career at the same university her mother― Celeste Beauparlant― beloved GNN political talk show host and award-winning journalist, attended!
With a few remaining months from graduation, Alaine’s got everything planned out! That is until one day on Celeste’s show, she causes an uproar far and wide after slapping one of her guests and when Alaine defends her mother from a classmate jokes about the incident, Alaine takes her school project a bit too far!
Now she’s suspended. But, her teachers leave her with an assignment to complete over her suspension and when her father sends her to Haiti, she’s told to take part in a “Spring Volunteer Immersion” project to ensure she passes her last semester.
With this novel mainly taking place in Haiti, it was wonderful to explore the culture through such a personal style of storytelling, it made the plot even more special to experience this journey through Alaine’s eyes.
A big theme and element of this novel, which I found was explored so thoroughly in Dear Haiti, Love Alaine was journalism! If you didn’t know, one of the co-authors of this novel, Maritza Moulite actually has a masters in Journalism!
Considering that is also my university major, I felt such a deep connection to the references, style of storytelling, and how this novel showcased the importance of this field throughout the story!
Some references I caught onto were: leads, “giving a voice to the voiceless,” reference to Cronkite, the use of multimedia (very present in journalism) to tell this story, and of course exploring Alaine’s love for the subject and how she unfolds the story of her mother’s own personal journey as a journalist!
I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but I also found the way the story unfolded referenced styles of journalistic writing as well! In Journalism, its often about how you present the information you’ve collected and how you choose highlight what you’ve uncovered. The way the plot, characters, and development are explored, to me, they referenced this style of writing in a seamless way where you are left looking at things from a new perspective.
Overall, I loved that this novel showed the depth and facets to this field in such a positive way, where its often downgraded in pop-culture and other forms of media/storytelling.
What I loved about the use of mixed media, was how it seamlessly delved into many plot threads, themes, characters, and their dynamics, I found that they were all explored in such a realistic way where they really came to life from the page.
Family is such a huge part of this novel and you see that develop through Alaine’s relationship with her mother (more on that in a bit), her father, her cousin Felicite and Tati Estelle! Not only just her family, but her friends as well, like the people she meets at Patron Pal (like Jason, who’s a fellow intern).
There’s a clear focus on the dynamic between Alaine and her estranged mother, who’s constantly been occupied with work. The time that the Moulite sisters take to explore family dynamics allows it to become such a layered element of the novel.
Alaine has never had such a strong connection with her mother, but is very close with her father! But, throughout the book, we see Alaine strengthen that connection with her. We even see when Alaine gets to Haiti, she learns more about her parents past and noticing them spend more time together, it gives them opportunities to talk and be more open.
Told through an epistolary style, we get an in-depth view of Alaine’s personal development through the different plot threads that find their way into this story! For example, we learn that Celeste has early on-set Alzheimer’s and a big plot thread of the novel explores Alaine’s internal struggle and confusion, as she also attempts to connect more with her mother during this transition in her life.
While there are many things that stayed with me by the end of this novel, something that really stuck with me through Alaine’s journey, was in learning about her mother’s Alzheimer’s. It allowed me to reflect and go back to a time when I was exactly in her shoes (one of my older relatives has Alzheimer’s). For me, though it was a much different journey I had to accept with a lot less time, I just can’t put into words how present I felt during those scenes and how they allowed me to reflect a lot during that time too.
From Alaine’s time at Patron Pal (her aunt’s organization/app to help kids in Haiti), learning about figures of her family and their country’s past, and much more, the plot threads are all given a great amount of page time and brilliantly weave their way together.
What I also appreciated about this novel was how it was very focused on the women of Alaine’s family, how their journeys are highlighted and are such vital pieces to the story that Alaine uncovers as she spends her time in Haiti!
I feel Marie from Drizzle And Hurricane Books interview with authors Maika and Maritza summed it up perfectly:
“…to create a story about the women who make sacrifices for themselves and their families. They are often forgotten or overlooked but vital to a family’s survival…”
Women from the past/present of Alaine’s family and the country of Haiti itself are given a spotlight and through their stories and experiences, its tied deeply to how Alaine sees her family!
Now while this is novel with many layers and depth to it, I did want to discuss a couple elements that lowered the rating, for me personally.
I did find the pacing (at points) did get a bit slow and there were times I struggled to continue immersing myself at some points of the story. Though I do feel that’s mainly because of the format of the story and how personal it is. Secondly, though there were many plot points explored really well, it felt they were given such a focus at certain points, that later on they didn’t feel too vital anymore. By the end, some threads felt incomplete and I still felt there was more to explore (light romantic story-line between Alaine & Jason, Alaine’s dynamic with her parents, & the curse).
There minor issues aside though, this is a book that delivers such a personal journey through an honest, brave, and vulnerable protagonist like Alaine! Dear Haiti, Love Alaine really needs more hype because it takes you on such a unique journey, you have to read it and experience it for yourself!
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a unique YA Contemporary that is introspective through its mixed media format and delivers a deep and personal story with many layered messages! The journeys Alaine and the family around her undergo throughout this novel, are explored thoroughly during Alaine’s visit to Haiti. The Moulite sisters deliver a debut that’s focus is on its complex characters and you see that through the mixed media format! Family, love, self-growth, and healing are just some of the many themes explored throughout this wonderful debut!