A truly exceptional read that will both break your heart and lift your spirits 5 Stars go to THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET by Tara Sullivan

 

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Title: THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET

Author: TARA SULLIVAN

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Length: 320 pages

Release Date: February 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-17307-3

Publisher: PENGUIN GROUP Penguin Young Readers Group, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

 

  • I received a free copy of this book from the Publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET is the perfect title for this novel as the story within will both break your heart and lift your spirits. Sounds impossible, right? Well, I swear it is true.

Tara Sullivan has crafted characters that will settle themselves deeply into your heart and mind and that will stay with you long after you finish reading this incredible tale of bravery, determination,

The story begins on a cocoa farm in the remote farm region of the Ivory Coast (in Africa, for those of us who are geographically challenged.) It is on this farm that readers are introduced to fifteen-year-old Amadou and his eight-year-old brother Seydou.

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We discover that the brothers are originally from Mali and that two years earlier they left their home in search of work and the opportunity to eat on a regular basis. Their family worked hard on their small farm, but drought made them unable to grow enough food to feed the entire family. The brothers had heard of school, but no one they know has ever been able to afford to attend.

Amadou and Seydou were “hired” by some men to work on a cocoa farm and were taken deep into the interior of the Ivory Coast. It was only after they arrived that the brothers realized they had been duped and would not be receiving any pay for the work they were to do. In fact, they were told that they owed the farmer money for what he had to pay the driver who had sold the boys to him and that they would have to stay and work at the farm until their debt was paid. So, in fact, they were NOT workers, they were SLAVES. Quickly they learned that if they did not work hard enough or fast enough to satisfy the farmers, they would be brutally beaten.

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Children and chocolate: The sweet industry’s bitter side  By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn, 30-Jan-2014 NGOs say human trafficking and child labor remain deep-seated problems of the cocoa industry as a Nestlé, ADM and Cargill court case stirs up old supply chain concerns.

All Amadou cares about is protecting his younger brother. He obviously does not like the circumstances he has found himself in, but since he does not see any way out, he is resigned to it. The one time the brothers tried to escape, they were caught and instead of punishing Amadou, the overseers forced him to watch while they beat his brother bloody with chains. Seydou was only six at the time of the beating. From that day on, Amadou did his best to protect his brother and himself from more beatings.

Every day seems the same to Amadou and he has almost lost all hope of ever seeing his family again. That is, until one day when a new “worker” is delivered to the farm under unusual circumstances. Then, everything changed…….

I do not want to give any more spoilers for this book, so I will leave the details of the rest of the story out of this review. I will however, say that Amadou and Seydou are in for one heck of an adventure,

This is a story that highlights both the good and the horrible things that human beings do to one another.

When the average person thinks about slavery, we think about the past – back to a time when African-Americans were owned by white plantation owners in the Southern United States. What should instead come to mind is the fact that sadly, slavery still exists in our modern world.

Hand in hand with the issue of forced child labour is the issue of poverty. Seydou and Amadou grew up in a poor farming village in Mali and while they are fictional characters, there are literally thousands of children in identical situations today. For those of us that live in North America, the kind of poverty that Amadou and Seydou were born into is almost unimaginable. The closest most of us will get to seeing it is when we see television commercials showing starving children and even then, most people tend to look away.

THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET brings these issues to light while also telling an absolutely fantastic story filled with action, adventure, love, hope and highlights the power within all of us to figure out how to make our lives better. The tale itself is fast-paced and readers will find themselves riveted to the page and fully invested in the outcome of the brother’s adventures. I cannot say enough good things about this book.

I also want to assure potential readers that although this book is billed as a Young Adult novel, it is written beautifully and will appeal to readers of all ages.

I rate this book with the highest possible rating I can give which is 5 out of 5 stars.

My advice?

BUY THIS BOOK!

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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*Author information was copied from her website www.tarasullivanbooks.com

Tara was born in Calcutta and spent her childhood and early adolescence moving around South America and the Caribbean with her parents who were international aid workers. Not only did this mean that many dinner table conversations centered around issues of international justice and poverty alleviation, but it was awkwardly normal for me to stick out like a sore thumb on the playground, at a birthday party, or on the bus.

Though she spoke Spanish like a native and felt more comfortable in Bolivia than holding her American passport, she was always seen as the outsider. When the UV rays from the hole in the ozone over the Andes badly damaged Tara’s eyes, her family was forced to leave what had always felt like home and move to the United States. Having never lived stateside before, Tara stepped off the plane at the age of 14 and started 9th grade the very next morning at a high school in rural Virginia.

Thus began her adventures in the United States. After high school she attended the University of Virginia, followed by a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Minnesota where she worked in refugee resettlement and interpreted at a prenatal clinic for indigent women.

Tara completed graduate school in Indiana before moving to Massachusetts in 2008. She currently teaches Spanish at Burlington High School and lives just outside of Boston with her husband, children, and a big furry mutt.

Learning to make "ugali" during my research trip to Tanzania for GOLDEN BOY.

Back in 2009, when she came across a news story about the kidnapping, mutilation, and murder of African albinos for use as good luck talismans, she was struck by the topic on multiple levels. The grown-up in her, the one that studied for a dual Masters in Non-Profit Management and International Studies and worked with village micro-finance and refugee resettlement programs, wanted to publicize this human rights tragedy. The kid in her, the one who had to hide from the sun and could never blend into a crowd, wanted to tell a story about what it must feel like to be a kid who has those problems in the extreme.

It was then that she sat down and started to write GOLDEN BOY. And the rest, as they say, is history…

To learn more about Tara and her writing visit any (or all) of the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER 

GOODREADS   

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

 

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  • The above picture is of the author in Haiti while researching cocoa farms.