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Book Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Publisher’s description

ra6A gorgeous and emotionally resonant debut novel about a half-Japanese teen who grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school.

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.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

starfish17-year-old Nebraskan Kiko Himura prefers painting to fitting in (her words). She’s always felt like the odd one out, and her social anxiety hasn’t exactly helped her feel like she can fit in. Her mother is white and her father is Japanese. Her terrible mother is pretty racist nonstop, constantly making Kiko feel awful for everything having to do with being Japanese. She feels like she’ll never be good enough for her mother—her horrible, self-absorbed, hateful, AWFUL, emotionally abusive mother. Kiko also feels completely responsible for her parents’ divorce. Then there’s the fact that she was sexually abused by her uncle (her mother’s brother) and her mother refuses to believe that. Have I mentioned that her mother is unrelentingly TERRIBLE? (In fact, my one real complaint is that Kiko’s mother isn’t given any real depth or exploration, and Kiko just kind of writes her off as crazy, never my favorite excuse for someone’s villainous behavior.) Kiko hopes graduating and moving to New York for art school will give her the escape she wants and a chance to start over, to find out who she really is. When she doesn’t get accepted, she isn’t sure what she’ll do. But a new plan forms after two surprising things happen: One, her uncle, that uncle, moves in with them. And two, Kiko reconnects with Jamie, her childhood best friend, who now lives in California. He invites her to stay with his family while she figures out her future. There, she looks at art schools, gets encouragement from a high profile artist who takes her under his wing, and, of course, realizes she’s totally in love with Jamie. She begins to feel the love and support she never got at home, but it scares it, especially with Jamie. She’s worried she’ll lose him and she doesn’t want to become dependent on him. It’s a summer of big feelings and transformations for Kiko—one that grows infinitely more complicated when some pretty big secrets finally come to light.

 

This beautifully written book is a powerful look at breaking free, finding your voice, and coming to finally understand your own self-worth. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781481487726

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: 09/26/2017

Comments

  1. suzanne tecza says:

    My students will gobble this book up!

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