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Heartless Lyn @ Great Imaginations

"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost"

Bitter Melon - Cara Chow This book is an in-between for young adult and children. I also needed a bit of light reading while combating heat-induced headaches. In my education classes, the students and the teachers discuss the problem with bullying that is occurring in our schools. Indicators, profiling, and motives are turned over and examined while we work towards eradicating the epidemic in our schools. However, all of the profiling and research will do very little if children learn that the world in unsafe, and that bullying is a fact of life, when it occurs in their own home. Chow illustrates the psychological bullying of an over-bearing mother while exploring the drawbacks and rewards of the values of the Chinese culture. Frances Ching, a Chinese-American teenage girl growing up in San Francisco, begins to develop her sense of self as she attempts to lead an American teenage life while breaking away from her severely controlling mother. Along the way, friendships are made and broken, love is found, fears are confronted and in the end, she soon realizes that bitterness cannot be the main flavor in life. Her mother raises Frances without her father, and uses an arsenal of emotional, and sometimes physical, abuse to keep her daughter in line. Chow brings to light that the Chinese culture is not to blame for the overbearing mother syndrome, but it certainly adds to the demand that Chinese children holds the values of family and servitude over self exploration and freedom. I'll fairly warn everyone that the emotional abuse in this story can border on discomfort. Frances' mother often puts down her daughter, speaks poorly about Frances while the girl is present, criticizes her weight and her appearance and uses money as a weapon in the household. The mother also uses blackmail and constantly sabotages Frances' plans. When she has pushed her daughter too far, Mommy Ching turns sugary-sweet and lavishes her daughter with gifts and affection, only to later use it against her daughter as she sees fit. Emotional and psychological abuse and neglect issues are just starting to surface in research and awareness. Many times, people dismiss this treatment, and they often blame the child for having a thin skin, or claim that the only people who complain about this abuse are overly sensitive children and people. However, the abuse in this book is a sadly wonderful example of emotional blackmail and torture, and how it can warp a child's sense of their own self, other people, and ultimately, the world. Frances even tackles her own personal problems and attempts to amend her own bitterness lodged deep within herself. Too often, YA and children's literature fails to depict abused and neglected children truthfully. Most often, the gold-hearted youth only suffers and wishes for escape from their environment and into a better life. Frances is the result of years of emotional warfare: she is selfish and somewhat cruel. However, the young woman comes to realize that her own personality is an extension of her mother's abuse, and slowly begins to pick out the shards and develop her own personality. The love interest (thankfully - not the main event of the story) was a tad bit towards Inta-lurve, but the developing relationship was a wonderful integrated portion of the story. Frances' ever-changing friendship with Theresa, another Chinese-American teenager, often morphs and finally reflects how Frances has grown as a person.Overall, this was a wonderful story. I would fairly rate the story at a 3.5 stars, and I would highly recommend this book for young girls.