Bitter Melon
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Bitter Melon

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  763 ratings  ·  198 reviews
Frances has one job in life. To get into Berkeley and become a doctor so that her mother's ambitions for her will be realized. And Frances doesn't think there's anything wrong with that - until the day she accidentally steps into a speech class.

Frances turns out to be a natural at debate and public speaking. But to win in competition, Frances needs to say things she really...more
Kindle Edition, 317 pages
Published December 28th 2010 by EgmontUSA
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Thomas
4.5 stars.

"That's the first time I've ever heard the idea of unconditional love outside the context of religion. In theology class, I always hear about God's love, about his loving us even though we're sinners. But the idea that real live parents could be unconditionally loving is completely foreign... How can anyone be loved not for what they do but for who they are? Isn't who you are defined by what you do?"

There are some books that really hit home. Books that you can relate to, so that when y...more
Jasmine Cui
This book was ok. It was good but, it did a very poor job of portraying a real asian's perspective of life. In truth the normal asian has a family more in similarity to the one shown with Nellie and Theresa. In the asian community a girl like Fei-Ting is extremely uncommon and unheard of. Especially near the end she starts to become rude into an un-fathomable point and her behavior especially when she shames her mum is stomach-churning and disgusting. No, in China we respect our elders and that'...more
Laura
Although I completely devoured this book in 2 days some people would ask why I only gave it three stars. The reason being, France's relationship with Derek was unrealistic. The smart, good looking, white male would never leave his beautiful girlfriend for the plain Asian girl, nor would he have the patience to stay with her. I felt no chemistry between the two and thought of it as a stereotypical high school relationship. I also felt the ending to be bittersweet. Even though France's mom deserve...more
Cecilia Gray
There's no getting around how personal my reaction to this book was going to be.

Frances is the daughter of, for lack of a better term, an Asian tiger mom, and so am I. Many reviewers have felt the mother is abusive or extreme, and I think that's a cultural judgement. To be honest, the mother wasn't that extreme for me so that doesn't color my review of the book.

Frances is under an immense amount of pressure from her sick mother to get good grades and become a doctor, which she isn't interested i...more
Laura
Frances' life reminded me of the many tales I've heard of my parent's generation of Jewish children growing up in places like the Lower East Side or the Bronx: their parents sacrificed and scrimped so that the next generation could do better, achieve more, and only certain schools and the highest grades, the most correct behavior was allowed. Who needs sports? Who needs dates?

That Bitter Melon is set in 1989, rather than 1939 (or earlier) is what will surprise readers. Aren't we supposed to be...more
Steph Su
You know, I’m always pretty hesitant to read these books. Stories of difficult and overbearing Asian mother-daughter relationships a la The Joy Luck Club always seem to blend together for me after a while. Happily, while the premise of BITTER MELON is not unique, it presents Frances and her mother’s story in a way that worms inside your heart and draws out your emotions.

Ms. Taylor, Frances’ speech teacher, tells her that words contain great power, and so it is with this book. We may not be able...more
Jacquelyn
“That's the first time I've ever heard the idea of unconditional love outside the context of religion. In theology class, I always hear about God's love, about his loving us even though we're sinners. But the idea that real live parents could be unconditionally loving is completely foreign... How can anyone be loved not for what they do but for who they are? Isn't who you are defined by what you do?”


Surprisingly, I really enjoyed this book. I thought I would like it but not be enthralled in the...more
Krystle
Any book that’s put out by an Asian-American, especially if it’s young adult, I’ll probably attempt to read somewhere down the read. This sort of culturally specific/finding one’s own way out of their upbringing and therefore leading to a discovery of their own voice/identity is not high up on my list of themes I love to read about. But I decided to give it a chance.

Frances was extremely irritating to me. She was selfish, wish-y wash-y, and pretty dense for a lot of the book. I was quite happy w...more
Ari
I'm not entirely sure why the book is set in the '80s. It makes the seem semi-autobiographical (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), although the '80s environment does make the actions of Frances' mother even more stifling. There's no easy way for Frances to get away, no Internet or cell phone to help her escape, even if only for a little while. I was skeptical of the sudden friendship with Theresa. France dismisses Theresa (rather unjustly it would seem) and then all of a sudden they become fr...more
Jenni Frencham
Frances and her mom live in a small apartment in San Francisco's Richmond district. Frances's mom works long hours at a back-breaking job so that Frances can attend a private school and receive a top-rate education. All she asks for in exchange is that Frances do her very best in everything all the time. Frances is trying hard to fulfill her mother's dreams for her: to get high scores on the SAT, to attend UC Berkeley where she can study to become a doctor, and to embark on a successful career w...more
Mary (BookHounds)
Every once in awhile I come across a book that really hits me emotionally and Cara Chow's Bitter Melon is one of those books. It filled me with pleasure, a bit of sadness and a some triumph. The characters just jump off the page and the dialogue just flows perfectly. This story is set in the 1980's but you would only pick up on the decade once or twice since the story is really quite contemporary. I loved how the author took on such themes as tradition and duty versus independence and individual...more
Jessica Harrison
full review at Cracking the Cover
Parts of “Bitter Melon” left a bitter taste in my mouth, not because the writing was bad, but because it was so good. Cara Chow’s prose helped me invest in her characters, particularly Frances. And the way Frances’ mother treated her daughter really made me mad. It felt as if she was living her life through her child and burdening her with unrealistic expectations.

Books like “Bitter Melon” are important. They give us a glimpse at people and cultures we know nothi...more
Michelle
Bitter Melon is one of those books that I find incredibly difficult to review. Mainly, because despite the fact that I struggled with the story there was great power and value in Chow's message. I'll start with saying that I felt like the whole story was a bit stereotypical -- overbearing Asian mother dominates and manipulates timid daughter. This, however, doesn't take away from the thematic elements that were of greater significance.

The best part of Bitter Melon was Frances. She was so eloquen...more
Rachel
WARNING!!! CONTAINS SPOILERS.

1. The novel "Bitter Melon" by Cara Chow is about a Asian girl named Frances who is on her senior year of high school. She is poor, and lives in a small town in San Francisco with her mom. Her mom is very strict and puts a lot of pressure on her. Also, she works very hard to educate Frances well. In respond to that, Frances has always been a respectful girl who obeys what her mom tells her to do. She studies hard to go to Berkely and become a doctor as her mom wishes...more
Sandra
This review original appeared on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves


It’s been a long time since I’ve been as emotionally invested in a book as I was in Cara Chow’s Bitter Melon.

It’s a difficult story of a Chinese-American mother and daughter living in San Francisco, yet it could be about any family where the parents do not allow their children to fly free, to find a life that will give the child joy and satisfaction. It’s about caging the soul of a beautiful mind as a battle ensues to find the sweet taste...more
Judy
Every time I see a contemporary Asian-American YA novel, I feel a strong draw to read it, even though I've read some books that made me wince with its heavy-handed use of stereotypes or the sickeningly sweet after-school special treatment of racism.

After reading this book, I think I have a better understanding of why even as an Asian-Canadian, I struggle with reading these sorts of stories. Maybe it's because I was raised in a similar manner, with the drive to excel at school and to fill my lif...more
Dodie
Frances, now a high school senior, is expected to become a doctor and do her mother proud, avenging their abandonment by her husband many years ago. When Fei Ting (Frances' Chinese name)accidentally gets assigned to a speech class rather than calculus, she feels exhilarated and scared at the same time, and ends up staying in the class. This forces Frances to be deceptive, something she has never done before. Frances' mother is out of control and can play the martyr at the drop of a hat (or some...more
Nian
Cara Chow’s wonderful debut really made my heart ache, not just for the protagonist, but also for the mother. I loathe the mother, wondering how she could put her daughter through everything, but in the end, I still pitied her because she did give up so much, and almost lost it all. Being Asian American myself, I really resonated with the novel, the traditional values and upbringing of an Asian mother. Everything I did, my mother wanted more, constantly critiquing me and saying everything she di...more
Laura
I've got to admit, I didn't like this book much. I was extremely intrigued with the premise, though. The first pages were refreshing in their clear language and accurate portrayals of relationships and friendships.

And then Frances met Derek.

And everything started spiraling from there.

Derek's description of being a Greek God and his girlfriend - although her personality seems questionable - apparently has the beauty of a Muse. Although Frances is lauded by her mother and friend as being witty a...more
joy *the clean-reader extraordinaire*
every family is not like your family
your parents are not always right or even good
you can make your own choices, but it might be painful

a well-written story, recommended for high schoolers, multicultural studies, or just as a quick afternoon read

LIKES
**the gradual, stutter-start romantic relationship
**clear-eyed descriptions of the embarrassing moments i think we all had as teenagers -- zits, periods, perspiration, social awkwardness, and occasional wardrobe malfunctions.
**vivid descriptions

DISL...more
Jessica
The story was compelling, and the character seems like she would be easy for many teens to relate to. She goes through the regular ups and downs of an academically ambitious adolescent (i.e. acne, boy worries, getting into college) at her girls-only San Francisco high school. While the book seems to turn around Frances' breakout talent in speech class, it quickly becomes a look at abusive relationships. Frances has to deal with an emotionally and physically abusive mother and the unbearable weig...more
Phoebe
Sep 05, 2011 Phoebe rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Deborah, Cheryl, Nancy
Shelves: ya, realistic-fiction
Moving, often wrenching story of Chinese American Frances and her mother, on their own in San Francisco, late 1980s. Frances is under pressure to do more than her mother did, to get perfect grades, to stay on track to get in to UC Berkeley and study medicine. Her mother never lets her forget that everything she sacrifices is for Frances, that she works horrendous hours, endures horrible bloating pain, eats less food, for Frances and her future. The trouble is that she is also abusive, cruel, and...more
Erica
"Bitter Melon" might be sort of a fictional, young-adult companion read to "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." It is a story about an Asian-American girl, Fei Ting, growing up in San Francisco during the 1980s. Her mother is overbearing, demanding, manipulative, and abusive towards her daughter. Fei Ting's life starts to change when she is accidentally placed in a speech class instead of calculus. Instead of reporting the mistake and changing her schedule, she decides to stay in the speech class,...more
Anne Girouard
Earlier this year I read The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which piqued my interest in the "Chinese"-method of child-rearing. It was a method that I thought was a bit rough around the edges--sure your develop whiz kids, but you also risk scarring them in the process, turning them into bitter adults. I stumbled across Chow's debut novel and was instantly drawn to it because it looks at the tiger mother from the perspective of her cub. I wanted to see just how that child felt about the parentin...more
The Bookologist
Inspiring and touching, Bitter Melon is an emotional story of trying to fight through battles and the real meaning of happiness. The concept of imperious Asian mothers was a bit cliché, but Chow did have the creativity to add in much more meaning to it.

Chow’s writing is so addictive and she absorbs you into Frances’ world. Her writing is so powerful that it there’s sympathy for Frances’ feelings and emotions. There’s so much emotion in the story, especially when Frances’ mother went mentally abu...more
The Bookologist
Inspiring and touching, Bitter Melon is an emotional story of trying to fight through battles and the real meaning of happiness. The concept of imperious Asian mothers was a bit cliché, but Chow did have the creativity to add in much more meaning to it.

Chow’s writing is so addictive and she absorbs you into Frances’ world. Her writing is so powerful that it there’s sympathy for Frances’ feelings and emotions. There’s so much emotion in the story, especially when Frances’ mother went mentally abu...more
Lauren
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 t...more
Katie
Bitter Melon tells the inspirational story of Frances, a Chinese-American girl who is controlled by her verbally abusive mother, as she fights and struggles to break out of her mother’s mental chokehold and create the life she wants for herself.

This book isn’t just another contemporary novel. It breaks the mold from the rest, telling an unforgiving raw and real story without all the sugarcoating and sprinkled happiness. Frances’ mother is so unbelievably horrible to her, but Cara Chow writes is...more
Shazzer
As posted on Outside of a Dog:

I’m not sure what it is that appeals to me in YA literature these days. When I actually was a young adult, I wasn’t reading typical YA fare. There are classics in the genre that I didn’t read until I was an adult, and some notable standouts that I still haven’t read (Judy Blume, I’m looking your way). When I was a teenager, I just wasn’t interesting in teenage things, and it wasn’t until I started running a youth/children’s department at a bookstore that I really st...more
Terri
"Bitter Melon" by Cara Chow is timely. With the recent publication of the controversial New York Timer Best Seller, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua, which "...imparts the secret behind the stereotypical Asian child's phenomenal success: the Chinese mother," the topic of the successful Asian child is much talked about.

In "Bitter Melon," Chow tells us the story from the perspective of the Asian child. Frances Ching/Fei Ting lives with her mother (her father has passed away from stom...more
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Schumpp, EII Hono...: Bitter Melon 1 1 Apr 29, 2014 08:38AM  
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“So how do you know when you're a winner? Easy. It's when good is not good enough.” 6 likes
“That's the first time I've ever heard the idea of unconditional love outside the context of religion. In theology class, I always hear about God's love, about his loving us even though we're sinners. But the idea that real live parents could be unconditionally loving is completely foreign... How can anyone be loved not for what they do but for who they are? Isn't who you are defined by what you do?” 5 likes
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