Dual Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Starfish
by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Published by Simon Pulse
on September 26, 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads

 

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.


We received a copy of this novel for review, this does not influence my thoughts or the contents of this review.

This book messed me up in the best way. The writing is absolutely stunning. Just gorgeous and lyrical and so descriptive that I can almost see the art that Kiko describes. The characters were perfectly developed and the exploration of anxiety and self-image issues were so so well done. I cannot scream enough about how well done they were. There is no easy answer to both the mental health and coming of age struggles Kiko faces, but there is always hope and options and the author portrays this in such a realistic and healthy way I cannot praise it enough.

As an abusive mother escapee, it was too easy to relate to Kiko’s struggle with her mother. That desperate need for the smallest token of affection & those feelings of responsibility even when you logically know that you’re being manipulated were so painfully familiar that I spent the entire book mentally screaming at her but also feeling like my own heart was being ripped from my chest. So basically my favorite kind of reading experience.

I also have a strong appreciation for the fact that even though there is a romance – it doesn’t dominate the story or Kiko’s decision making. She isn’t magically cured by Jamie’s love. AND IT IS BASICALLY SCREAMED IN TEXT THAT LOVE DOESN’T CURE YOU. Bless you Akemi.

If you’re looking for a brutally emotional story about learning to love yourself and figuring out how to choose putting your own happiness & dreams first, Starfish is definitely the book for you.


I’m always on the lookout for diverse contemporary YA so when I heard about this debut, I knew I had to read it.

Kiko is an artist who dreams of going to Prism, the art school of her dreams. But when she doesn’t get accepted and her abusive uncle moves in, she decides it’s time for a change. As Kiko attempts to move on and reconnect with her childhood friend, Jamie, she learns more about her family’s past that could impact her future.

Based on the description, it’s clear that this is not a light-hearted read. While I’m usually not drawn to tougher reads, Starfish is a beautiful novel and I’m so happy that I read it. Kiko’s story is one that will stick with you and Bowman’s writing is extraordinary.

Overall, Starfish is a phenomenal debut novel that explores anxiety, dreams, and abusive families. It’s definitely a heart-wrenching read but Kiko’s story was so captivating that I had to keep reading. If you’re looking for diverse contemporary YA from an author that you should definitely add to your auto-buy list, I highly recommend this one.

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