Chanda's Secrets
by Allan Stratton

The opening of Allan Stratton's 'Chanda's Secrets'

Allan Stratton's Chanda's Secrets

Book review by Karen Talley

Ages: Young Adult

Growing Up Too Soon in Africa

Chanda's Secrets is a compelling story set in a small African village being ripped apart by the HIV/AIDS virus. The book deals with one teen's struggle when her baby sister dies from the disease.

The social stigma her family faces could occur anywhere in the world.  Early in the book Chanda is confronted with the daunting task of planning her sister's funeral (see above), and that's just the beginning.

The plot builds quickly as she is confronted with one tragic event after another.

Everyday life for this sixteen-year-old is a balancing act. Her scholarship is in jeopardy, her family is falling apart, and her best friend needs her help. She is forced to assume the responsibilities of an adult dealing with challenges no child should have to face.

She becomes a caregiver to her siblings, her friend and in the end, her mother.

I was hooked on the book before the first chapter ended, a definite page turner. The author did an excellent job developing all the characters.  His young antagonist was courageous, intelligent and resilient.  She was the VICTOR rather than the victim. 

My emotions ran the gamut while reading this book.  I found myself annoyed at Mrs. Tafa, the nosey neighbor, one moment and laughing out loud at her the next. My anger rose when innocent children were preyed upon, and I was saddened when there was a death.

I felt complete joy when Chanda was triumphant. The end was by far my favorite part of the book. This one young girl brings her village together…with a surprising ally.

SPOILER ALERT! Keep the tissues handy, you will need them. This book is a tear jerker.

Chanda's Secrets - review

NOTE TO PARENTS: The book contains mature content, including sexual abuse, prostitution, and violence. If I were reviewing it as a movie, I would give it a PG13 rating.  Teens today, including young ones, have more street smarts than my generation (and you can keep guessing which one that was.) Let's just say, the book probably wouldn't have been on the shelf in my school library. 

This would be an excellent read for both parent and child.  The story provides opportunities to discuss with your teen the issues the author writes about.  As a matter of fact, there is a study guide available for the book. It is a good choice for a book club selection, or for an adult who wants to read an heartwarming story.

Chanda's Secrets deserves a five-star rating from me! I would not hesitate to recommend it to my sixteen or eighteen-year-old granddaughters, or any teen who enjoys reading about a survivor.

Read Karen's review of the sequel, Chanda's Wars.

Read more of Karen's reviews.

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