Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

Summary/Cover from Publisher's Website:

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.

Bitter Melon is an incredible, touching, and inspirational story of one girl's fight to become the person she wants to be rather then the one who mother wants her to become.

Bitter Melon tells the story of Frances, a Chinese-American high school student. All of her life, it's only been Frances and her mother depending on each other, and her mother making the decisions with Frances trailing behind. So, when it comes to Frances' future, her mother has the whole thing planned out: Frances will got to med school and get a life much better than the one her mother received. Though, everything changes the day Frances accidentally walks into a speech class with a teacher who's like no teacher she's ever had before. With Speech class, Frances finds a new talent, a talent of public speaking, and soon enough, Frances builds up the courage to tell her mother who she wants to be, but will she be able to rise to the task in the end? Will she be able to tell the women who's done as much as she possibly could for her daughter that she doesn't want med school? Only time will tell in this tale of mother and daughters and the space and secrets that lies between them.

I'm sure everyone here who reads my reviews has had that one big fight or fights with their mother before, thought I doubt it's ever been as the one between Frances and her mother. Frances and her mother are both interesting characters. Both are headstrong and want what the other one doesn't want, but the major difference between them is the vindictiveness France's mother contains, vindictiveness that not only made her one of the most compelling and perfect villains in the story, but someone who I wanted to yell at several times, because Frances is a lovely girl, as you'll realize if you read the book, but her mother doesn't consider Frances wants at all, instead she takes Frances for granted, even though I'm sure deep down she only means well in a twisted way. This all made the tension between them frightening yet strangely compelling, one of my favorite parts of the book. No doubt about it.

Another one of my favorite part's of Bitter Melon was Frances' speech class and speeches, because through them you got to see a vivid, honest portrayal of Frances. I also liked the way that through her speeches she begin to see people, such as Theressa, Derek, and her teacher, in ways that not only shaped her as a person but her life as well.

Adding to this, I simply loved Cara Chow's writing. At times, I could barley even tell this was her debut novel, because her writing was just that great. It was honest, raw, and addicting, making this one book that calls to be read in one sitting. I also loved the way she not only brought the late 1980s setting to life in this, but thought of so many unique ways to use symbolism in the story.

In all, Bitter Melon is one of the best contemporary books I've read so far this year (2010). It's brutal, honest, and touching; something I'm sure Courtney Summer fans will gobble right up! Lastly, Cara Chow is an author to watch because I feel she has many amazing books in future if Bitter Melon is any indication.

Grade: A+

Bitter Melon is now out!

Source: Publicist at Goodman Media. Thanks, Jenny!


  1. Thanks for this review. I spotted this at B&N but haven't seen anyone else talking about it yet. Glad to know it's good!

  2. Wow. I cannot wait to get a copy of this. Your review just proves that it really deserves to be on my wishlist! Thanks for this awesome review!

  3. Thanks for the review! To be honest I've overlooked this book quite often, but I've now added it to my TBR (:


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