Top positive review
a beautiful epistolary novel with a smart, lively protagonist
Reviewed in the United States on September 10, 2019
I’m so glad I read Dear Haiti, Love Alaine! I received a digital review copy from NetGalley and Inkyard Press (Harlequin) in exchange for an honest review. I loved this novel so much that, after reading the eARC, I pre-ordered both a finished copy and the audiobook, listening to it, in full, in the two days after its release. (Bahni Turpin narrates the audiobook and is wonderful, as usual.)
Alaine Beauparlant is super-smart, ambitious, and curious, traits that seem to serve her well and land her in trouble in equal measure. Thanks to the Moulites’ stunning writing and character development, Alaine feels true-to-life from the first page, growing more even complex and thoughtful as the story progresses. This is an epistolary novel featuring diary entries, emails, postcards, news articles, and transcripts of conversations, and the variety in form and voice made the 430-ish pages fly by.
Alaine is the daughter of Haitian immigrants. She lives with her (single) father, Jules, in Miami, where he works as a psychiatrist and she attends a progressive Catholic school. Her mother, Celeste, is a high-profile TV journalist living and working in Washington, D.C., and she has never been a consistent or accessible figure in Alaine’s life. Celeste's twin, Alaine’s Tati Estelle, is an influential woman in Haiti who works as both the Minister of Tourism and the CEO of a charitable start-up. After her mom's career hits a road-bump, Alaine hits one of her own. In the aftermath, her dad sends her to Haiti to intern with Estelle at her company, PATRON PAL, which connects donors ("patrons") with bright Haitian children in need (“pals")—a sort of 21st century version of a "sponsor a child" charity, gamified and made accessible by a smartphone app. While in Haiti, Alaine seeks to learn more about her family and its role in Haitian history (for both her own edification and a school assignment), and, naturally, learns a great deal about herself and her immediate family in the process.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is a standout debut. A powerful depiction of family legacies and secrets, and a loving portrait of both Alaine (full of heart, dry wit, and good intentions) and the country and people of Haiti. This will be a great fit for readers who enjoy heartfelt, intricately-crafted young adult fiction and the work of Elizabeth Acevedo, Ashley Herring Blake, Deb Caletti, and Brandy Colbert.