Bitter Melon

Cara Chow, Egmont USA, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-60684-126-6
Frances lives to please her mother, pushing herself for top grades so that she can get into Berkeley and become a doctor. But at the start of her senior year, she is mistakenly scheduled for speech class, where she learns she is a natural at public speaking, and she begins to question the path her mother has outlined for her. "If you eat bitterness all the time, you will get used to it. Then you will like it," Frances's mother tells her, referring to the eponymous dish, a blatant metaphor for the tight confines of their life together. Frances begins to make choices for herself, first hiding them from her mother, but ultimately confronting her. Though the viciousness her mother displays at times strains credulity (as when she beats Frances with a speech trophy, telling Frances she wants her to die), teens will be able to identify with the intense pressure Frances is under to succeed. The story follows a foreseeable course, but debut novelist Chow's descriptions, dialogue, and details of Chinese-American life in 1980s San Francisco shine, and Frances's growth is rewarding. Ages 12–up. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/22/2010
Release date: 12/01/2010
Genre: Children's
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