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The Bitter Side of Sweet

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,698 Ratings  ·  404 Reviews
Two young boys must escape a life of slavery in modern-day Ivory Coast

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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 23rd 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
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Jessa Franco I think this is one of those moments where the author is purposefully vague, allowing the reader to interpret based on their own experiences. As…moreI think this is one of those moments where the author is purposefully vague, allowing the reader to interpret based on their own experiences. As adults, we have enough life experience to assume the worst: that she had been sexually assaulted. Whereas children may not know to interpret it that way.

During my reading, I was terrified that she had been raped. I poured over that text and couldn't find anything that confirmed my fear, leading me to believe that she was just beaten or the author wants you to interpret it yourself. If it is the latter, I think she makes the narrative more accessible to multiple age groups and that strengthens the purpose of the novel. (less)

Community Reviews

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Diane S ☔
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
The dark underbelly of the chocolate industry, an indulgence many of us can't live without. Well, personally I can, I'm more into salty snacks, seems like you are either one or the other. Anyway apparently 40% of the cocoa pods are harvested on the Ivory coast of Africa, large farms and harvested by children in slave conditions. This is the story of three of them. Amadou is 13, his brother Seydou only six when they leave their home in Mali to, work on one such farm. They expect to get paid, make ...more
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fast-paced and engaging story about the dark side of the chocolate industry. For 12 & up.

I don’t count how many trees we pass because I don’t count the things that don’t matter. I don’t count unripe pods. I don’t count how many times I’ve been hit for being under quota. I don’t count how many days it’s been since I’ve given up hope of going home.

Two years ago, Amadou (15) and his brother Seydou (8) left their home in Mali to find a seasonal job and earn money for their family. Instead, the
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love chocolate and eat some just about every day. Like most people, I never really gave much thought to where it comes from. I really had no idea. I do now, and it gives me grief to know what so many child workers, who are basically slaves, go through to harvest those cacao pods so we can all have a candy bar or a cup of cocoa, something they may never get to enjoy in their possibly short life, since most of them are beaten, starved, and overworked 7 days a week. I will keep eating chocolate, ...more
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It was kind of sad, but very good!
Jun 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Unbelievably good book! I couldn't put it down and read into the wee hours of the morning to finish it. Such a gripping tale of two brothers forced to work on a cacao farm harvesting the cacao pods. The treatment of these kids broke my heart and I couldn't breathe at parts were punishment was about to happen. I think everyone should read this. I will certainly look at chocolate a different way from here on out.
Ms. Yingling
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Amadou and Seydou have been sent by their family to work on a cacao farm, but once they are there, they are mistreated and no money is sent to their family. They are regularly beaten for not picking their quota, and Seydou, who is only 8, is badly wounded in an accident. With the help of Khadija, an educated girl from the city who is also brought to the farm, the brothers escape and make it back to Khadija's mother, who is trying to expose the horrors of the chocolate industry. It is because of ...more
Leslie Bryan
Oct 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Would recommend for realistic fiction lovers, those who are interested in different parts of the world, and young social activists. The story of Amadou, Seydou, and Khadijah is striking and brings to light the untold horrors of the chocolate industry. This book makes you think about the real costs of what we consume.
Sam Musher
I love Golden Boy, but it's always a bit of a hard sell -- I usually have to explain what albino means, and then why Habo is threatened as an albino in Tanzania, and by that point the kids have given up. The idea of hunting a child as a magical talisman is just such a foreign situation.

Bitter Side of Sweet won't have that problem. "It's about kids who work as slaves on a chocolate farm, until their daring escape" is a quick soundbite for standing by the shelves. Not all middle schoolers want to
Gary Anderson
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amadou and Seydou are two young Malian brothers enslaved on a cacao farm on Africa’s Ivory Coast, the origin of much of the world’s chocolate trade. When another kidnapped worker arrives, the first girl among the enslaved children, her “wildcat” tendencies challenge the overseers and lead to horrific consequences for the children.

Although clearly written for younger readers, author Tara Sullivan masterfully conveys the brutality of the children’s situation without being graphic. Terrible things
Rachel Michelle
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
I received a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.

"The bosses said we could leave when we'd earned out our purchase price." I add. "But they wouldn't tell me how much we owed, and in all the time we worked there, I only saw boys arrive or die, never leave when they wanted to. And we never once got paid."

This book tore me apart and glued me back together. Several times. I become attached to this book after just 50 pages and i neglected the other 3 books I am currently reading. I would defi
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had a love-hate (90% love, 10% hate) relationship with this book. The reason for hate? "The Bitter Side of Sweet" was SO sad!! I even cried once and almost cried a billion times). But, there were so many amazing things in this book. Once I would start reading, I couldn't put the book down. The story is action-packed and fast paced, with a beautiful fluency to everything, plus in-depth characters.
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
WOW. SO CLOSE TO FIVE STARS. The complex relationships between characters—especially between the brothers at the center of the story—made this book such a great read for me. I feel like I went on a journey with these characters; seeing with them, thinking with them, feeling with them. They relate to each other in nuanced and dynamic ways, and it makes everything about this book SO engaging. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the plot is excellently paced, the prose is so, so vivid, and the main cha ...more
Read, Run, Ramble
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
My review (originally published at Read, Run, Ramble)

The Bitter Side of Sweet is the first and only book I read in December. Yes, you read that correctly – first AND only. I’ve been in a horribly hard to shake reading slump. For months I’ve gotten very little pleasure from the books I’ve read and just generally haven’t felt up to reading. That feeling has left me scared to pick up books because I’m worried the slump will affect how I feel about the book and I don’t want to ruin any treasures wit
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So many great things to mention about The Bitter Side of Sweet! First of all, I loved the relationship between brothers Amadou and Seydou, specifically how the reader can see them grow and develop over the course of the novel. They are always there for one another, as family should be!
I was very thankful that, although we learned about life on the farm, we didn't not have to endure the brutality through a first hand account. It was bad enough to imagine these things happening to children let al
Alexis W
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book The Bitter Side of Sweet was an eye-opener. Just one little cheap piece of chocolate can cost so much to someones lives. Amadou and his little brother Seydou are stuck in a fruit farm where they grow and pick cacao a fruit used to produce chocolate. Amadou is finding it hard to keep going as they get beatings regularly and Amadou had to take care of his little brother. Then wildcat arrives. Amadou finally realized how to save his little brother by trying something that seems impossible ...more
A. Minin
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! "The Bitter Side of Sweet" was written with such depth and eloquence that I simply couldn't put it down. The characters' emotions were represented in such a beautiful manner, so real, so rich. This book is a must read for anyone. It brings to life the struggles of kids who don't have a voice, and are so often forgotten. I didn't expect to fall into this story, but I ended up savoring every last word. "The Bitter Side of Sweet" has definitely earned its place on the Rebecca Caudill 2018 ...more
Mrs. Davi
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Chocolate has been one of my besties for a long time now, but this book kind of made me feel like it should be removed from my diet! Amadou and Seydou are characters who I just felt so deeply sorry for and I loved the fierceness of Khadija throughout the story. it did drag at some points and felt like it was much longer than a ten day journey but I liked how other people stepped up and brought some closure to the brothers. This one will definitely get you thinking!
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love it! I just finished this book and I still can't get my mind off of it. Sullivan understands the human's thinking process in the best way anyone could ever understand. Then, she takes it one step further by making a book with it using lyrical and expressive writing. This book will help you understand why we fear the unknown, why we hesitate to trust, and what family and friends really mean to you.
Rachel Reinwald
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-releases
Nonfiction pair with Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet
by Carol Off
Erin Liles
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a heartbreakingly lovely story about fifteen-year-old Amadou and his little brother Seydou who work in a forced labor camp harvesting cacao on the Ivory Coast. The story explores child slavery, and you will never look at chocolate in quite the same way again. The author clearly did her research, but it never overshadows the story, which is, at its heart, about the relationship of two brothers and the fiery Khadija, whom they meet at the camp and who teaches the boys about hope and courag ...more
Brooke ♥booklife4life♥

**Find this and other reviews, plus fun stuff, on my blogs! Booklikes or Blogspot**Basic Info

Pages/Length: n/a
Genre: Young Adult
Reason For Reading: Cover

At A Glance

Love Triangle/Insta Love/Obsession?:
Cliff Hanger: No
Triggers: n/a
Rating: 3 stars

Score Sheet
All out of ten

Cover: 7
Plot: 7
Characters: 6
World Building: 5
Flow: 6
Series Congruity: n/a
Writing: 7
Ending: 7

Total: 7

In Dept

Best Part:
A nicely written female side character.
Worst Part: Wasn't too clear that they were little ki
Ravanna Dee
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is what I would call an eye opener. And I'll explain why in a moment.

The writing is intriguing enough to keep you captivated, and the story line...Well, it's kinda different from anything else I've ever read before. There's no romance (Sorry romance lovers. :/ ) but there is action, heartbreak, and incredible acts of heroism. I don't want to put in too many spoilers, but lets just say, my heart expanded a little when Khadija jumped onto one of the "bosses" back (Evidently giving hersel
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic story about what life is like for two boys working on a cacao farm. I was a little worried that this story would be info dumpy but I didn't find it that way at all. It would be great to see this one in classrooms. I think this is a good story to hand to readers who like realistic stories but want something that's set outside the US, and also a great story for readers who want something fast paced.
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Actual rating: 2.5 stars, but rounded down because it definitely doesn't deserve 3/5. While I can see why people like this book, I believe that it needs to be judged as a book, and not just as a lesson.

Overall Issues
loved not for being a book -- First and foremost, it pains me that this book has such a high rating on GoodReads. It has a terrifying and eye-opening story, but it's executed so poorly that how anyone thought this was an amazing book is beyond me. To me, this exact story could've bee
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Most of us know what chocolate is. A very common a sweet worldwide. Chocolate is made from the plant cocoa. But have you ever wondered how this plant is sort of made? Of course, its grown on trees and it needs to be cut down but I always thought it was by adults getting paid some minimum wage. That's what I thought until I stumbled across "The Bitter Side of Sweet".

This book is fifteen-year-old Amadou and his eight-year-old brother Seydou who began working at a cocoa factory. Heres the weird tw
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Amadou and Seydou are cutting the pods from the cacao trees, for this has been their job for more than two years. They must make their quote for the day or endure their punishment for failing. Amadou takes care of his eight-year-old brother Seydou, the responsibility sometimes overwhelming for the fifteen-year-old. They’re just waiting for the day that their debt is paid off, for Amadou feels that, when that day arrives they will be allowed to return home to their parents. Day in and day out, th ...more
Kaitlyn Bohnen
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
After reading The Bitter Side of Sweet, the less and less I want to eat chocolate. Once you hear the story of Amadou, Seydou, and Khadijah, it's striking and brings to light the hidden scenes of making the chocolate we all adore. This book makes you think about the real costs of what we consume. The adventures of the three kids are heart-wrenching and sometimes hard to read knowing the cruel punishments awaiting them if they do not meet a quota. Throughout the book, there is action, heartbreak, ...more
Miciah Bennett
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Books like "The Bitter Side of Sweet" make me sympathize and empathize with children who have endured hardship so that I can live my (not so) luxurious life. "The Bitter Side of Sweet" is a fictionalized tale of what is the reality for boys and girls throughout many less developed countries who are just trying to keep shelter over their head and a little food in their stomachs.

There are so many layers in this book, which is centered on the harvesting of cacao: class, gender, country of origin,
Rebecca Sofferman
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dcf, ya
Wow. What a gut-wrenching and powerful story. A young boy working on a cacao plantation in the Ivory Coast spends all day every day trying to make his quota to avoid being beaten while simultaneously doing everything he can to keep his younger brother safe. A wildcat of a girl suddenly joins their crew, who awakens hope, fear, and frustration in the boy's hearts. The three children attempt to change their fate and the entire story reads like a sad, edge-of-your-seat thriller that will make you n ...more
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DC Public Library: The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan 1 15 Apr 12, 2016 08:51AM  
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Tara Sullivan was born in India and spent her childhood living in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic with her parents who were international aid workers. She received a BA in Spanish Literature and Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia, and a MA in Latin American Studies and an MPA in Non-Profit Management from Indiana University.
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“You know what happens to people who ask questions. And you know what happens to people who answer them.” 1 likes
“I decide that, for now, I will allow myself to be happy with how far we’ve come and I won’t let myself fear what will happen next.” 0 likes
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