Chanda’s Secrets highlights devastating AIDS Africa’s epidemic

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By: Hera Ashraf <hashraf@hilite.org>

One of the many books on the new Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award (Rosie Award) list this year is Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton, a story about a 16-year-old girl who is trying to change the thoughts of the people in her town about HIV/AIDS. The book really pinpoints the issue of AIDS well and if you are interested in this topic, then this book is a must-read.

The story shows how unaware people are of the disease in Africa. Many people in that continent are scared to get checked because AIDS is considered to be a shameful and disgraceful affliction to have in the eyes of the society.

Chanda Kabelo is a normal girl trying to hold her family together. Her father and two older brothers died in a mine accident, and now her mom and she are trying to get settled. Her mom goes through many men and has three more children after Chanda. They finally settle in a small house, but her new stepfather, Jonah, is a drunkard and is not helping.

Chanda has a passion for studying and wants to make something of her life. She has a best friend, Esther, and everything seems to be almost as perfect as it can get. Neighbors always warn Chanda, however, to not be friends with Esther because her parents died from AIDS. Many people around Chanda are dying, but no one has the courage to say why but she knows the reason is AIDS. But that doesn’t make a difference to her. Everything is going fine until one tragic event that changes the way Chanda lives her life.

The book is short, only 208 pages, and it’s an easy read, but Chanda’s Secrets is intended for teens because of the issues covered in the book, which can be hard for the younger age groups to understand. One can see the characters change from the beginning of the book to end. All the characters have their own personalities that identify them.

The Canadian author has a straight-forward way of writing. It is hard to picture the exact faces of the characters in the book because of the lack of full details. Yet the reader can get a sense of the situation due to the straight-forwardness and still feel different emotions for the characters.

Chanda’s Secrets opens the eyes of the readers, allowing them to realize how HIV/AIDS is taking over Africa. Nobody wants to know or wants other people to know if they have HIV/AIDS because it is considered to be a disgrace to the family. Through Chanda’s eyes, this book shows how uneducated the people are about HIV/AIDS and how important it is for them to learn more about the disease.

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