Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine Book Poster Image
Teen seeks to end family curse in hilarious, moving tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The foundation of the story is a 21st-century family's relationship to the history of Haiti's slave revolt against French colonial leadership to establish an independent republic.

Positive Messages

If you can find a way to accept what life hands you, the future is always bright.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The book shows a view of Haiti that counteracts negative images of Hatian poverty and destruction that dominate the media. It presents a well-to-do, highly-educated, altruistic family whose family story is entwined with a fictional version of Haiti's history. The family includes an American-born daughter, father, and mother who emigrated from Haiti to the United States, and the mother's twin sister, who's become Haiti's minister of culture.

Violence

A case of presumed sexual assault in the past (employer-on-household employee) is a major driver of the plot. There's one scene of a violent grab and forced kiss. One character, a news anchor, slaps a man she's interviewing. Her outburst is related to her Alzheimer's.  

Sex

There is a kiss between young people, a high schooler and college student, and some slow dancing. A teen pregnancy ends in miscarriage.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In one scene, teens drink beer legally on a boat tour chaperoned by an adult. (They're in Haiti, where the drinking age is 16.)

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a coming-of-age novel written in magical-realist style that includes voodoo as an aspect of Haitian culture. Alaine is a 17-year-old high school senior in a Miami Catholic school for gifted children. Her father, a successful psychiatrist, and her mother, an eminent journalist, are divorced. After an incident during an overly "creative" school presentation that triggers a severe allergic reaction in another student, Alaine is sent off to her parents' home country, Haiti, where her mother is hiding out after her own outburst: She slapped a senator on live TV. There's a scene where teens drink legally (in Haiti, where the drinking age is 16). There's talk about ongoing sexual abuse by an employer toward his household employee and an instance of a violent grab and forced kiss. A teen pregnancy results in miscarriage. 

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What's the story?

When DEAR HAITI, LOVE ALAINE begins, 17-year-old Alaine is living a relatively unremarkable senior year at a Catholic school for gifted children. She's finishing up college applications, navigating school cliques, and managing the evolving relationships with her divorced parents. Two dramatic incidents shake that up. First, her journalist mom slaps a senator during a TV interview and decamps to Haiti hoping things will blow over. Then, Alaine gets a little too creative during a school presentation about legendary pig sacrifice before the Haitian revolution: Fake pig blood made from gelatin splatters around the classroom sends a classmate into anaphylactic shock. The school agrees not to expel her. Alaine will spend the next term in Haiti, interning in her aunt's startup, PATRON PAL, maker of an app that lets donors support needy Haitian children. Before she leaves, Alaine learns that her mother has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. When she arrives in Haiti, her mom's diaries reveal the history of the family curse, setting Alaine on a quest to end it. 

Is it any good?

This hilarious and moving book is a page turner. Written by sisters Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine has three great strengths. First, the narrator's voice is extremely compelling. She's a believable precocious teen. Readers can't help but root for her. Second, the language is original and strong. Finally, the novel provides a lot of laughs that come from a deep sense of humor, not just funny lines or scenes. The end is very satisfying and ties up ends the reader might not even realize were loose.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how caregiving is presented in Dear Haiti, Love Alaine. Alaine and her aunt act as caregivers for Alaine's mom, who has Alzheimer's disease. Has anyone in your family had to care for a sick or aging loved one? 

  • What did you think about the way the author used text messages, postcards, and letters to tell parts of the story?

  • How are Alaine's relationships with her mother, her aunt, her father, and her teachers different? How does each of those relationships help Alaine grow? 

  • Do you think the curse on Alaine's family was real?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love immigrant stories and tales of kids with divorced parents

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