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Bitter Melon by Cara Chow
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Bitter Melon (edition 2012)

by Cara Chow

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1901389,731 (3.69)2
Member:p6rchk
Title:Bitter Melon
Authors:Cara Chow
Info:EgmontUSA (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
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Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

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Narrated by Nancy Wu. Here's a story for teens about a tiger mother with her claws out! Frances' single mother works all day and sacrifices so that someday Frances will get into UC Berkeley, become a doctor, and take care of Mommy. Frances is content enough with the plan until she is assigned a speech class by mistake and finds there are other options in life, thanks to her dynamic young teacher. If you've been raised by strict Asian parents you will cringe as Frances' lies and cover-ups mount, and then tense up when Frances' mother finds her out. Narrator Wu is the stern, ambitious mother we all fear and obey; her Chinese accent is spot on. **SPOILER** The only flaw for me was when Frances walks out on her mother at the end; other than the Chinese New Year card, did they not communicate at all? That loose end left me dangling. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
If you think your parents have high expectations---meet Fei Ting and her "mom."
  ldawnmiller | Nov 25, 2011 |
Francis's mother, a divorced Chinese immigrant, has insisted that Francis get top grades in school so she can get into Berkeley and become a doctor. When she is accidently put into a speech class in her last year of high school, Francis discovers that she has a knack for public speaking and does not tell her mother that she is taking speech instead of calculus. She must hide her speech competitions from her mother since she is forbidden from taking part in extracurricular activies, having a job or dating since these will distract from her studies. ( )
  lilibrarian | Oct 1, 2011 |
Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

As I turned the last page of BITTER MELON, I still couldn't decide if I should celebrate for Frances or feel sorry for her mother.... And thus is the crux of the story behind BITTER MELON.

We meet Frances, a senior at a private girl's school with the goal to gain entrance to Berkeley. As with most Asian American families in the San Francisco, California, area, Berkeley is the holy grail of colleges. Only the most worthy will gain entrance. And Frances has been groomed from an early age by her mother to excel and want nothing else but Berkeley - and ultimately a degree in medicine.

A scheduling snafu at school lands Frances in speech class instead of calculus. She tells herself she will fix her schedule before the deadline, but before she knows it, the deadline has passed and she finds she not only excels in class, but she likes it. And her teacher, Ms. Taylor, inspires her and is nothing like any other teacher she's ever had.

Of course, speech does not fit in Frances' mother's plans. But with the coaxing of Ms. Taylor and the guidance counselor from school, her mother comes around to the idea of speech being an "extra-curricular" on Frances' college applications. But as with everything else, Frances has to come in first or it's not worth her time.

BITTER MELON encompasses Frances' senior year. The reader gets to know the hardships that Frances has to endure at the hands of her mother (sometimes literally.) Frances isn't allowed any after school activities and boys are a no no. She meets Derek at an SAT prep class that her mother constantly bemoans the cost of, even though Frances did not ask to attend. As Derek shows interest in Frances, her mother becomes more and more hostile in her actions and words.

I hate to think that Frances' life as portrayed in BITTER MELON is a common occurrence. The expectations placed on Frances were unreal and at times cruel. Frances did the only thing such confinement would be expected to lead to - she rebels. Though her rebellion is not outright, the subtle tugging on her strings is enough to make France realize that she wanted nothing more than her own dreams. Nothing she would ever accomplish would satisfy her mother, and gaining her confidence as the year passes increases her need to be free. ( )
  GeniusJen | Aug 5, 2011 |
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Book description
Frances has one job in life: to get into Berkeley and become a doctor so that her mother’s ambitions will be realized. And Frances doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with that, until the day she accidentally steps into a speech class and begins to discover a talent her mother wouldn’t approve of.

Frances turns out to be a natural at debate and public speaking. But to win in competition, she needs to say things she really believes — and to hide what she’s doing from her mother. And once Frances steps out beyond her narrowly prescribed life, she begins to question many things about the way she is raised. Why can’t she go to a dance with a boy who likes her? Why can’t she get a job, or have any money of her own? And most of all, why is her mother never happy with her?

Frances knows she should be obedient, and that her mother has sacrificed everything so she can succeed. But when it’s time to take the biggest step of her life, will Frances have the courage to defy her mother?
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With the encouragement of one of her teachers, a Chinese American high school senior asserts herself against her demanding, old-school mother and carves out an identity for herself in late 1980s San Francisco.

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