Some of you may remember my post a couple of weeks ago about my TBR list (click here to read it), and you’ll be happy to know that I’ve cut it down by nearly half (Gone With the Wind still remains, however, and I swear I can almost see it smirking at me). One of the books was Bitter Melon by Cara Chow, which I’ll be reviewing today.
Frances ‘Fei Ting’ Ching isn’t exactly what her mother Gracie had hoped for. Though she tries desperately to be obedient and hard-working, the perfect child, she gets a 1050 on her SAT and never, in her mother’s mind, measures up to her friend Theresa Fong. So when Frances accidentally lands in a speech class instead of calculus at school, she knows she can’t let Gracie find out that her daughter has destroyed the plan she worked so hard to create: Berkley, med school, and then finally, a high-paying job that will let Gracie retire.
But the speech teacher, Ms. Taylor, proves to be too compelling to switch classes. She shows Frances just how powerful language can be, and with her relentless encouragement, pulls her into the world of speech tournaments, where Frances may finally learn to find herself.
She eventually does, though it takes her through plenty of trial and error. When her mother, upon learning of the many speech classes and competitions her daughter has hidden from her, turns more controlling and destructive than ever, Frances finds the words to fight back and for the first time in her life, to win.
Chow’s debut novel is filled with the poignancy of young adulthood and self-discovery as she explores the delicate balance between society and self. She provides an unflinching and honest view of the world we live in through the eyes of an awkward girl teetering on the edge of her teenage years and desperate to find herself before it’s too late– in short, a book almost anyone can relate to.
I’ll be posting again on Friday, so make sure you keep an eye out!