Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: Bitter Melon

by Cara Chow. Egmont, 2011. I really enjoyed this young adult novel about the relationship of a Chinese American high school girl and her old school mother. Francis is trying to live up to the expectations of her mother, who demands that she work her way into Berkley and become a successful doctor in order to support her old age. She accidentally signs up for the high school speech class and ends up on the debate team because she isn't assertive enough to explain to the teacher that her mother doesn't allow such things as after school clubs that might interfere with math homework. She is surprised to discover that she is actually pretty talented at debate and it's a lot of fun. A budding friendship develops with the daughter of her mother's best friend, who it turns out is helpful in following the path of deceit and deception hidden from her mother.

The problem that Francis discovers is that in order to really shine in the debating competitions she has to speak about her deep beliefs and aspirations, which are in conflict with her mother's goals. This requires a complex juggling of duplicitous finagling and double-think. As Francis gets more and more excited about discovering her unique intelligence and linguistic abilities she becomes more angry and rebelious toward her mother. She is still emeshed in the emotional, verbal and physical abuse her mother has used to control her all along, of course. Witnessing the breaking free of that slough is what makes this novel so compelling and engaging. I was rooting for Francis all the way to the end, and found myself thinking about her and wondering how she was doing long after I finished the book. It's a great story well told.

1 comment:

Kristenne Marie said...

Interesting post. I like chinese-inspired stories :)

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