Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Publisher: Ink Road
Expected publication – paperback: April 5th, 2018
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Mental Health
*Received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much! This doesn’t affect the review in any way. My opinions are, as always, my own.*
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.
From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.
It took me a while to write this review… I just have so many feelings! This was such a unique and intense read! I loved it.
This book is about Kiko. She is half Asian and struggles with her appearance because today’s society is crappy. She suffers from anxiety, loves art, has two brothers with whom she doesn’t relate much and she has a narcissistic mother. If that was not enough, we can see that her life is not the best, but neither was her past (TW for abuse both psychological and physical).
This is an extremely hard book to read for how honest and relatable it is, I believe that for an Asian person it is probably much more relatable but I’m not Asian and I still related to Kiko a hell of a lot.
First of all, this book represents social anxiety in a very realistic and interesting way. We see all the struggles Kiko has, how much she tends to depend on others because of that and how difficult and yet possible it is to slowly overcome it. I really admired Kiko for how strong of a person she was, and she didn’t even realize it, which made it even more emotional. It’s something I related in way too many levels and I absolutely loved finally reading it in such an honest and yet careful way.
That’s not the only part I could relate to in her but it’s for sure the main one and the one I will mostly talk about here. A lot of people don’t realize how difficult social anxiety is and it’s often incomprehensible for many. I guess it’s something really difficult to understand without living it, but that shouldn’t be seen as something stupid or made up. Every day is a battle, and this book shows that exceptionally well.
Another thing I loved about this book was the importance of art, and how it was portrayed. Like the book says, art is often seen as something little, something everyone can do if they try. Everyone can splash some paint on a canvas, everyone can do some lines on a paper, everyone this, everyone that. But I don’t believe that and neither did Kiko, even tho she was often told that. Her dream was to be a painter and she pursued her dream with fearlessness and independently of what others thought of it. Plus there’s a lot of passages in the book that is Kiko’s feelings put in drawings, which I loved. Well in this case words showing what she was drawing (I wish the drawing were included too >.<).
The parts that had me most drawn to this book has to be the tragic parts (obviously – I just love my deep contemporaries) which are related to her family. Her mom is incapable of transmitting love. She is a narcissist, she only cares about herself and like that’s not enough she manages to be also racist even to her own children. Kiko was constantly psychologically abused. She often cried; felt ugly, alone, unloved and misunderstood. It was really emotional seeing her pass through all of that and I really rooted for her to get out of there and get her dream. Her mom made me CRAZY! She constantly shamed her daughter’s half-Asian appearance and even her culture, which she basically thought not to be cool anymore. How can someone do that to their own daughter?! But some do… And I believe this was a very realistic and powerful representation.
The friendship in this book is goals and the romance in this story is quite different, slow burning and cute. They were childhood friends long ago before Jamie moved away. At times it drove me crazy because of the lack of communication between the two of them, but that also made it more impactful and gripping. I loved that the romance in the book didn’t overpower the significance of the story, Kiko’s story. How she managed to show the best of herself to the world by following her dreams, battle her fears and distance herself from all the bad in her past.
I loved the meaning of the title, the writing and literally everything about this story. It’s quite dark, realistic and deeply meaningful. I would definitely recommend it to everyone and especially for Asians.
Is this book on your TBR? What did you think of it? Let’s discuss it in the comments below!