Published: December 28th, 2010 aka I suck as a reviewer
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction (more details about this in the review)
Page Count: 309 in my copy
Part of a series? Nope.
Summary (from goodreads): 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 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. Frances knows she must be obedient to her mother, who has sacrificed so much for her education. But how much is Frances living out the life her mother wants her to have, instead of the life that's right for Frances?
Review: I quite liked this one. Two quick things before I say more. First, I'm going to call this contemporary even though it was set in a year from August 1989 to August(ish) 1990 because that didn't seem like the main focus of the book. You pretty much could have changed that to 2009-2010 and very little would change besides maybe the one mention of a New Kids on the Block poster. (Although you never know.)
Second, I would like to put out there that I am hard to impress when it comes to contemporary fiction. I'm a hard sell on it. It's just a personal bias that I try not to let sway my reviews because it's... not exactly fair, is it? It's like me going on a cheese factory tour and complaining about all the cheese.
Bitter Melon didn't make me cry, it didn't rip out my emotions, stomp them in the dust and leave me sobbing in a corner - and that's okay. Frances' story was told effectively without that and honestly after the last book that actually made me sob and kinda broke me for a night, I needed something that didn't. But of course, your mileage may vary, and it's really not a bad thing. The writing was solid, it had a good plot, complex characters, and I read it in just a few hours ago.
Plot: *points* Go look up there at the summary and you'll be good. It wasn't a terribly complex plot. Not weak, but it was more of a character-driven book. (Insert obligatory statement about how character-driven books can be completely and utterly awesome and a non-complex plot doesn't equal a weak plot.)
Characters: Like I said, more of a character-driven plot. It was largely about Frances' relationship with her mother. There was a romance (and smoochin', which always makes me happy because I'm a hopeless romantic when it comes to books) but it wasn't as big a part of the book as Frances and her mother.
Frances was interesting. I liked her and everything but I kinda... wanted to know more about her. A year passes in the book, though, and for some reason, I'm not a huge fan of that. I guess her voice was a bit removed. Which is odd considering the book was in first person present tense, but that's the best explanation I can come up with. Make sense?
As for her mother... the woman was insane. She was abusive and sabotaged Frances while at the same time expecting her to be perfect. Ugh. I did not like her at all.
Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: Like I said, a bit removed in the voice. That's what I'm realizing now looking back at it and my notes and stuff. It's sometimes hard to connect with her and I like to connect with characters.
PG-13 stuff: Some language and like I said, her mother was abusive. There might be some eating disorder triggers so this might be one to avoid if that's something you don't like to read in your fiction.
Cover comments: I adore the cover. Totally gorgeous. There was another cover at one point that was a flower in a black background (you can see it in this post) but I like this one way better.
Conclusion: While it didn't knock me out of the water, Bitter Melon was a solid, enjoyable book that is well worth reading and that I enjoyed. Three and a half out of four roses and very much recommended.
I didn't take many but have you actually seen a bitter melon? It's a funky looking plant.
Peace and cookies,