I haven't read a page turner like this in quite a while...I've read many good books, but it's been a long time since I've read a book and agonized over doing anything other than reading it. Every moment I wasn't reading this book I was thinking about the characters and wondering what was going to happen next. I tried to continue reading it in the car on the way home from vacation last week. I never do that as I get terribly carsick if I read in the car. I wasn't able to read for very long...but savored the few pages I scrabbled in. I generally do not pick up a YA novel because I'm in the business of children's literacy and focus on emergent readers and middle grade novels, but this book popped up on my radar while combing the web for Newbery talk, and after reading the reviews and consulting with literary connections I felt it was something I needed to read for myself. Oh my...I am sooooo glad I read this book. It was thrilling, suspenseful, emotional, and extremely well written. There are exceptions to every rule, and I strongly believe if you have a high leveled reader who is not overly sensitive, this is a suitable choice for the higher end of middle grade (6th, 7th and 8th) The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan follows two brothers who naively enter modern day child slavery on an African cocoa farm under the premise they will be paid for their labor and returned home once they work off the amount of money the bosses paid for them. Soon after arriving they realize nobody ever gets paid, no one ever leaves, and no one's ever told how much they owe. After two years of hard labor and beatings (they are vaguely described...trust me...I'm a wimp with violence-especially involving children-and I read this book without a wince...okay maybe one teeny tiny wince one time, but that's it) 15 year old Amadou's determination to run away with his 8 year old little brother, Seydou, is awakened when a 13 year old girl, who he nicknames Wildcat, is dumped on the farm. She is relentless to run until they break her spirit, but not completely as you soon find out. I'm not telling you any more. This is a MUST READ for sure. I think we'll hear a lot more about this book in the coming months as award season draws near.
Borrow it from your local library or click on the link below to purchase it from Amazon.