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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
Out of the Darkness: A Novel by Jeanne Fortune is a deep, compelling novel about overcoming hardship for the YA audience. This story is more than just a story of a girl from Haiti adjusting to life in America; it's grounded in social issues too, which lifts it to a higher level of entertainment. Protagonist Cynthia has a lot to deal with in Haiti, family strife. Her forceful father transplanted her from her home country to the US, and she now misses her mother. This is just the beginning of her sorrows. Her father is belligerent and controlling, she has to face heart surgery all alone, as well as homelessness and a toxic relationship with an abusive man. Could life in America get any worse for her? Why was this any better than her familiar surroundings in Haiti? Depression falls on her like a veil. She is stronger than she thinks, though. She has learned a new language, starts college and finds a way to hang on to who she is and what she wants out of life.
What I like about this novel is the character of Cynthia. She is a glowing example of how one not only endures trouble but triumphs over it. Though she is a little stubborn, this is the trait that helps her persevere in the long run. Fortune has a talent for getting you inside Cynthia's life and mindset, causing you to feel as the character feels--so much so that you wonder how you would fare in such situations. She is all alone, and you feel it. But the darkness is balanced nicely with light, and there is a clear message of hope and possibility. Readers are sure to connect with the character's journey, and the story is so immersive and compelling that you just have to know how it turns out. The immigration story is powerful enough on its own. Then you have Cynthia struggling with issues a lot of women struggle with: poor relationships, self-esteem issues, mental health, and an uncertain future. For a satisfying read that would be perfect for classroom conversations or book club discussions, Out of the Darkness: A Novel by Jeanne Fortune is an outstanding title.