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Book review: Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

Bitter melon

The cover picture is totally anachronistic.The story takes place in the 80’s, and somewhere in this YA novel’s 3o9 pages, it mentions big bangs and Aquanet (whereas the model has reasonable hair and totally 2000’s eyebrows). And what’s up with the ocean in the background? The meat of the story is in San Francisco’s Richmond District, and the ocean is only fleetingly mentioned like once. But gripes aside.

So Frances attends all-girl Catholic school and lives in a 1-bedroom apartment with her mom in the Richmond in SF (totally exciting fame moment if you live in the City). She’s super sheltered, and at 17, has really only been to the Richmond, Chinatown, and Downtown maybe a little bit. Her mom’s pretty strict and intense (and abusive), and plan is for Frances to take Calculus, get straight A’s, and go to Berkeley to become a doctor. The plan goes into action without much fanfare until oops, quiet, obedient Frances takes a public speaking class instead of Calculus and starts winning competitions. Her mom is pissed. In classic YA novel fashion, everything else collides too…

It’s a pretty typical coming of age story, the protagonist is reasonably likable, and she makes choices that you’ll support. Some of the plot was kind of meh, but you know. It won’t necessarily change your life– but the 1980’s san francisco scenery will make you happy.

get a copy here


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