The Bitter Side of Sweet Review

6:31 AM

Summary of The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan 

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. This number is very important. The higher the number the safer they are because the bosses won’t beat them. The higher the number the closer they are to paying off their debt and returning home to Moke and Auntie. 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 some money during the dry season to help their impoverished family. Instead they were tricked into forced labor on a plantation in the Ivory Coast; they spend day after day living on little food and harvesting beans in the hot sun—dangerous, backbreaking work. 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 old impulse to run is suddenly awakened. The three band together as family and try just once more to escape.

*Summary from


It's important to read books you normally wouldn't pick up on your own. If you only ever read what interests you, you'll rarely be challenged by new ideas. The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan is not a book I would've chosen to read of my own volition, but I found it to be engaging and eye opening.

I became an advisor for a Global Scholarship program at the school I teach at so I'm making an effort to read more books focused on global issues, which led me to reading The Bitter Side of Sweet. It's not the type of book I'd usually try to read, but Amadou's story drew me in and wouldn't let me go. Amadou's struggle between survival and doing what's morally right was relatable and realistic.

In addition to the vibrant characters, The Bitter Side of Sweet also opened up my eyes to the harsh realities of some cacao plantations. I've visited a cacao plantation before, but was largely ignorant of the child slave labor that is used on some cacao plantations. The fact that we eat chocolate without any thought to the child slave labor that is sometimes used to harvest and produce it was a big wake up call. 

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  1. I may have to try this book now. Thanks for the review!


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