Book #2: The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

My kids are back in school and I am excited to get back to sharing books with you. To transition into business as usual, I'm starting things off by highlighting my favorite reads from this summer. Today is day 2; let me tell you about book 2.

Book #2:  The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

From Amazon:

Fifteen-year-old Amadou counts the things that matter. For two years what has mattered are the number of cacao pods he and his younger brother, Seydou, can chop down in a day. The higher the number the safer they are. The higher the number the closer they are to paying off their debt and returning home. Maybe. The problem is Amadou doesn’t know how much he and Seydou owe, and the bosses won’t tell him. The boys only wanted to make money to help their impoverished family, instead they were tricked into forced labor on a plantation in the Ivory Coast. With no hope of escape, all they can do is try their best to stay alive—until Khadija comes into their lives. 

She’s the first girl who’s ever come to camp, and she’s a wild thing. She fights bravely every day, attempting escape again and again, reminding Amadou what it means to be free. But finally, the bosses break her, and what happens next to the brother he has always tried to protect almost breaks Amadou. The three band together as family and try just once more to escape.

Inspired by true-to-life events happening right now, The Bitter Side of Sweet is an exquisitely written tour de force not to be missed. 


My daughter and I randomly grabbed The Bitter Side of Sweet off a shelf in the YA section of our local public library. The cover was interesting and the story description was compelling. 

Mya read it first. She couldn’t put it down and finished with a, “You have to read this Mom!” (This is almost always a reliable indicator of a good book.) Before I knew it, she had convinced my mom to read it. She echoed Mya’s recommendation moving this book to the top of my TBR list. 

The Bitter Side of Sweet is the story of two boys caught in child slavery on a cacao farm in Africa. It is realistic fiction and in addition to enjoying a good story, it will make you think hard about everyday decisions you make regarding chocolate. I firmly believe that stories are powerful forces of change. I hope this one will be read by many and inspire small changes that lead to big ones. 

There are hard things that happen on the pages of this book, but it has a hopeful and satisfying ending. The author does a great job of mixing the hard reality of kids like Amadou and Seydou, with a fast-paced story line that is hard to put down. At its core, it is not just a book that raises awareness, it is a well-told story about freedom, family and doing the right thing. 

I absolutely recommend this to your teen and to you as well. I think you will be glad you picked it up.

What are some books that changed you or your kids' thinking or raised awareness using the power of story?