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The Bitter Side of Sweet, by Tara Sullivan, shares the story of Amadou, a fifteen-year old boy and his eight-year old brother Seydou. Imprisoned on a cocoa farm that uses child labor in the center of Ivory Coast, Africa, the brothers fight to survive and reach harvesting quotas each day.

Julia Fikse | The Feather Online

The Bitter Side of Sweet, by Tara Sullivan, shares the story of Amadou, a fifteen-year old boy and his eight-year old brother Seydou.

Amadou and Seydou were tricked two years earlier into slavery. After entering the unending cycle, a girl from San Pedro, Ivory Coast arrives on the farm wild and crazy. Difficult to handle, after the long truck ride of abuse and beating, she proves a runner, leaving at possible opportunity.

Khadija Kablan, daughter of an African reporter leaves her mother with kidnappers, after her mother angers the illegal cocoa industry in a newspaper article. Brought to the camp, far from her home, she stirs up dissent and an idea for escape. Previously threatened and beaten out of the boys, the idea of escaping presents a new and wild objective.

However, after testing the boundaries, Amadou spends a day in confinement and Seydou takes on the forest alone without the protection of his brother. Seydou comes back gravely injured and unable to work. Soon after a few days of mistreatment Seydou arm becomes infected and unless further treatment pursues death comes knocking. Seydou comes out of the experience with one less arm.

Forced to contain the wild girl under the threat of death, Amadou struggles to harvest double quotas to earn food for Seydou. After investigating and developing a relationship with Khadija, Amadou realizes what she came from and how she arrived at the cocoa camp. After two days of chopping cocoa pods with Khadija, Amadou realizes that he desires to earn his freedom once more.

After a desperate escape attempt, Amadou, Khadija and Seydou struggle through the forest with the luring realization that pursuit trails them and they need to help each other to stay alive and find their destination.

This book presented a great narrative and  kept me intrigued the whole time, whether because I got lost or because the story suggested a tense moment in the adventure.

Julia Fikse | The Feather Online

Imprisoned on a cocoa farm that uses child labor in the center of Ivory Coast, Africa, the brothers fight to survive and reach harvesting quotas each day.

The only moments I struggled to enjoy occurred towards the beginning of the book when the setting developed and what was going on and how the characters related to each other. The story presented a few African names and not coming from an African background made it difficult to distinguish different people.

Based on real events, this story brought out a new perspective, on the situation of slavery, in different countries and continents such as Ivory Coast in Africa. The story presented a new look at slavery and the reality of the presence it still holds in today’s world in places less protected than the United States.

This book is for those who enjoyed Refugee by Alan Gratz and Golden Boy also by Tara Sullivan. Motivated by injustice in Africa in the cocoa industry, Sullivan authored two fictional books exposing the oppression done to children in Africa.

Other books the reader may enjoy include novels Captive in Iran, by Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, Once an Arafat Man by Tass Saada and Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan.

For more book reviews, read Book Review: Refugee and Book Review: Once an Arafat Man

Andrew Rieker can be reached via email.

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