"In Haiti they say 'Kreyol pale, Kreyol konprann.' Speak plainly and honestly, and be understood. Read more...
"In Haiti they say 'Kreyol pale, Kreyol konprann.' Speak plainly and honestly, and be understood. Laura Wagner does just that in this brave, beautiful book, bringing us the complex life of Magdalie, and a glimpse of a people's soul." --Jonathan M. Katz, author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster
"Haiti, already one of the poorest countries in the world, was devastated by the earthquake in 2010. This is a story of everything that comes after: from a candid depiction of the international response to a young girl's account of what a life of desperation can do to an individual and to a society. Magdalie's journey shows the importance of connections, of family and friends, during difficult times and the anguish that comes when those bonds are broken. In her debut novel, Laura Rose Wagner has managed to capture the devastation of loss while providing determined hope for the individual and the nation. An important read for anyone who wishes to better understand the reality of life in Haiti after the earthquake." --Ophelia Dahl, executive director of Partners in Health Hold Tight, Don't Let Go follows the vivid story of two teenage cousins, raised as sisters, who survive the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. After losing the woman who raised them in the tragedy, Magdalie and Nadine must fend for themselves in the aftermath of the quake. The girls are inseparable, making the best of their new circumstances in a refugee camp with an affectionate, lively camaraderie, until Nadine, whose father lives in Miami, sends for her but not Magdalie. As she leaves, Nadine makes a promise she cannot keep: to bring Magdalie to Miami, too. Resourceful Magdalie focuses her efforts on a reunion with Nadine until she realizes her life is in Haiti, and that she must embrace its possibilities for love, friendship, and a future.
- ISBN-13: 9781419712043
- ISBN-10: 1419712047
- Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
- Publish Date: January 2015
- Page Count: 272
- Reading Level: Ages 13-UP
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.7 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-11-10
- Reviewer: Staff
In this formidable first novel, 15-year-old narrator Magdalie loses everything after the Haitian earthquake of 2010 and is forced to rebuild along with her country. This well-adjusted schoolgirl goes from living in Port-au-Prince with her close cousin, Nadine, under the watchful care of Nadine’s mother, to finding her own way in a camp after her aunt’s death and Nadine’s emigration to the United States (“Since January 12, every good-bye feels like it might be forever”). Wagner effectively and unsentimentally highlights the emotional and economic aftermath of the disaster as Magdalie grieves the loss of her family; realizes she cannot afford school; adjusts to life with her reluctant guardian and uncle, Tonton Élie; and begins to accept that Nadine is unlikely to send for her as promised. Wagner’s portrait of Haitian culture is particularly compelling, and her descriptions of the settings of the city and Tonton Élie’s country hometown are lush, despite the nation’s dire circumstances. An epilogue, set in 2020, resolves the story a bit neatly, but this strong heroine and her will to survive triumph. Ages 14–up. (Jan.)
Teen life in Haiti
Laura Rose Wagner’s debut novel tells the heartfelt, gritty story of a girl living through the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Sixteen-year-old Magdalie and her cousin, Nadine, are like sisters, both raised by Nadine’s mother, who dies in the quake. The boredom, poverty and filth of the makeshift refugee camp are made bearable by the girls’ friendship, but then Nadine’s father procures an American visa, and she moves to Miami. Nadine promises to send for Magda, but as the months drag on, Magda stops expecting a reunion and must rediscover her connection to the people and opportunities that remain in Haiti.
Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go is an excellent choice for readers searching for a diverse narrative. Wagner worked in Haiti for three years, including the year of the earthquake. She is sensitive to reductive and sensationalist portrayals of Haiti, and she tackles these issues in a particularly compelling moment between Magda and an American photographer. There is darkness, anger and despair in what Magda endures, and Wagner is harsh when she needs to be, depicting the hazards faced by young women through moments that are difficult to read. With a realistic balance between righteous anger and sardonic humor, Wagner produces an empathetic and enlightening portrait of a teen’s life in Haiti.