Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman has a cover that makes you want to go out and buy it immediately, but please just wait a few minutes because after this review you’ll want to read it even more 🙂
Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.
But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.
This is a story about friendship, about family, about love and about choosing for yourself. It’s a wonderful book and basically incorporated everything I look for in a book. I love books about friends and families. I love books that are set in the last year of high school, before life really starts and you need to decide your future.
Kiko is such a relatable character. She has social anxiety and is extremely socially awkward. Her relationship with her family is distant. Her mother is pretty much the most annoying person ever (my words, not hers, but I’m pretty sure she’d agree). She’s tortured by childhood trauma. Her escape is art, she draws and paints and when she doesn’t get accepted to the art school she has always dreamed of going her life suddenly got another turn.
I loved reading from Kiko’s perspective. I found an endless number of situations I recognized myself in, from the way her relationship with her brothers is distant, to how socially awkward she is in conversations. She often doesn’t say what she wants to say and I really liked the way that was described in the book. I also loved the way in which her art was incorporated in the book. At the end of almost every chapter, there is a short description of something she draws/paints.
“I don’t know the right words to say to sound cool, because “being cool” does not fall within my skill set.”
Kiko is half-Japanese (or half-white depending on how you see it) and I found it incredibly interesting to read about how it is to grow up as mixed-race. Kiko wasn’t raised with Japanese culture but throughout the story, she learns more about her roots. I think the book really captured this really well, the author is also mixed-race and her experiences really shine through in the book.
“Fixing me isn’t like fixing a loose screw or a little bit of rust. I’m like a giant mess of problems, all linked together and tracing back to my childhood. Back to when things got so complicated.”
I want to mention the love story, even though it is not a major part of the story. It was really cute, and I found the way Kiko dealt with it very realistic. I loved that she didn’t just let herself “be saved” by someone else, she wanted to be able to stand on her own two feet. I loved that the message wasn’t that you need love to fix yourself. I feel that is often the case in similar coming-of-age contemporaries dealing with issues like is. I’m a huge advocate of the idea that you don’t need a boy to save you.
(who run the world?)
“I don’t want to need anymore. I want to stand on my own two feet. I want to control of my own life and my own emotions. I don’t want to be a branch in someone else’s life anymore — I want to be the tree on my own.”
I am giving this book 5 stars because it was all I hoped this book would give me. I loved Kiko and Jamie basically everything. I literally can’t think of anything that might have made this book even better (
well maybe except having Kiko’s actual art in the book but that’s not a possibility I think). It was emotional, funny, relatable, and the writing style was wonderful. I will definitely recommend this book if you like contemporaries!
I would like to thank Akemi for providing me with a copy of this wonderful book!
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman will come out in September of 2017.