Friday, February 11, 2011

Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon is a YA literary fiction novel, written by debut author Cara Chow.

Frances needs to get all As in her classes. She needs to improve her SAT score. She needs to take calculus. She needs to get into Berkeley and become a doctor. She needs to do this, because this is what her mother has been working towards all these years and set her sights on. Frances accepts this and recognizes how hard her mother works, how bad her mother's health is becoming, and tries her best to meet the standards her mother demands.

But when Frances finds herself electrified and inspired by a new teacher, she's nearly devastated to realize she's in the wrong class. Instead of calculus, she was enrolled accidentally into a speech class. She knows she should fix it right away, and get into the calculus class that may be her key to getting into Berkeley, but this is the first class Frances has ever been interested in. And soon she realizes she has a talent she'd never known before. A talent her mother would find inconsequential and distracting to their goals.

Yet... Frances begins to question whose goals she is desperately trying to fulfill - hers, or her mother's? Does she even want to be a doctor? How come she can never date or get a part-time job? How come nothing she does ever seems good enough?

The speech class acts as a catalyst to changing thoughts - changes that may completely take Frances on a different path than the one that has been set up for her since birth... if she can only find the courage to follow through.

Bitter Melon was amazing. A truly astounding first novel from an author I will keep an eye on from now on. Fellow book lovers, you seriously need to read Bitter Melon!

It's stark and believable, a family drama that presents a raw portrait of love, control, and the unbearable pressure of expectations. There's a sad realism to Bitter Melon, almost making it hard and uncomfortable read at times - but to tear your eyes away from it would be to deny yourself the story of Frances, a character who's strength seems to be simmering below the surface.

This lovely YA novel is tense and suspenseful in that agonizing human way - dramatic without losing its groundedness. Bitter Melon is blistering with truth and integrity - an inspiring, uplifting, honest coming-of-age journey. Cara Chow writes beautifully and lyrically - keeping everything simple but powerful. She has an interesting way of letting the reader consider both sides to every issue presented, and making my own opinion of the matter sway and bend.

Sometimes searingly painful to read, right up to its hurtful, bitterly realistic, part-victorious, part-questioning end, I found Bitter Melon to be a stunning book - giving me chills and tears in my eyes at its magnificent, riveting end. This is literary fiction at its best.

Yeah, you've gotta read this.

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