Bitter in the Mouth, By Monique Truong

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The Independent Culture

The work of Asian-American writers is all too often described as "bittersweet", but in Truong's case this label is exactly right. The teen heroine of her second novel is different from the other girls in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

Not only are the walls of her bedroom decorated in manly maritime prints, but she suffers from "auditory-gustatory" synesthesia. There are certain words she craves to hear - mom (chocolatemilk) and period (blueberrymuffin) - while others such as prune (scallion) and character (pickledwatermelon-rind) make her wince.

The love of her life, a blond boy named Wade, triggers a shower of orange sherbet on her tongue. Family secrets, first love and betrayal are ingredients of this entertaining coming-of-age tale.