"The Bitter Side of Sweet" - a Teen Book Review


The Bitter Side of Sweet is a teen novel about the use of child labor and child trafficking in West Africa. This child labor supplies most of the world's cacao, a key ingredient in many types of confectionery treats. Written from the point of view of one of these victims of child labor, this book will awaken the social conscience of young people to the dark side of a treat taken for granted in Canada, the United States and Europe. Most of the cacao in West Africa is harvested using child slave labor and many of these laborers are trafficked.

In the novel, Amadou and his eight year-old brother, Seydou, harvet cacao pods all day every day. The more they harvest, the more they earn towards paying of a debt to the camp leaders. They have no idea how much they actually owe and have no idea that cacao seeds are used to make chocolate treats for people in richer countries. When a new girl comes to camp, Khadija, Amadou remembers what it feels like to be free and yearns for the courage to fight as she does. 

Despite the terrible experiences that Amadou, Seydou, and Khadija have lived through, the novel does end on a hopeful tone. The exciting conclusion demonstrates the risks some have taken to expose the truth about cacao and its harvest. 

This is an unforgettable story of courage and compassion and sheds light on how the chocolate we eat is made. 

Intended for readers aged 12 and up, The Bitter Side of Sweet would be a great family read aloud for older children and parents. This book will open up great discussions about how people live around the world, social consciousness, and how we can help. The author provides resources at the end of the book and gives suggestions for what readers can do if they have been inspired to action.

To find this book in our library, click HERE

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