Author: Cara Chow
Publisher: Egmont USA
Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to Med school. But is being a doctor what she wants? It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent. Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her? Set in the 1980s.
My Thoughts: It's a bit of an understatement to say I liked Bitter Melon. I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would. It made me think and gave me insight to something that I'd never really thought about, which is something I really love in a book.
To be honest, I'd never given much thought to Chinese-American students and how smart they tend to be. In my tiny little town, I don't think there's a single Chinese-American student at my school so it was just something that never came on to my radar. This book, however, put things into total perspective. It tackled an issue that seems to be very prominent in society without being preachy or whiny.
Bitter Melon is a truly dynamic book - it does not just focus on academics or the mother-daughter relationship or any other particular thing. Instead, it weaves in the high standards Frances is expected to meet and maintain with things that your every day teen faces, like relationships with boy and self-esteem. Each subplot is fully developed and woven together to create a story that's hard to put down.
Frances is a character that everyone is going to be able to relate to and a character that I really admire. Her determination really struck a chord with me and while I don't want to give anything away, I was really proud of her by the end of the novel. Obviously the Chinese culture plays a part in this and honestly, the culture difference shocked me. I'd never really given any thought to how different nationalities within the US live and the little things were just...wow. However, that insight to Chinese culture also added insight to the characters of Frances' mom and their family friends and why they did the things they did. As I said, Bitter Melon is dynamic and everything works together.
Overall, I highly recommend this one. I had trouble putting it down and it's perfect for when you don't want to read a dark issue book but need something more than a fluff read. It's a book that I'm sure is definitely going to mean something to Chinese-Americans but will also relate to all other teens as well. So if you see a copy in the store, be sure to pick it up!