Book Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

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.

GENRE: 

Young Adult, Contemporary

PAGES:

353 pages

PART OF A SERIES?:

Standalone Novel

RELEASE DATE: 

September 26, 2017

PUBLISHER:

Simon Pulse

YOU CAN FIND THE BOOK AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR THE FOLLOWING LINKS:

GoodReads

IndieBound

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Book Depository

iBooks

Google Play

Author’s Website

GOODREADS SUMMARY: 

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.

MY REVIEW

I get happier and happier as more diverse books are coming out. It makes me sad sometimes to glance at the books on my shelf and realize that so many of them are written by white authors about white characters. This is never to say that those books aren’t great because they are and I’m glad they exist but I’m made it my own personal mission to read more diverse authors and more books with diverse characters. As a biracial girl myself, this should already have been my mission haha.

I stumbled upon this book accidentally. I search BookBub nearly every day to see what books are on sale, and this one popped up. I really loved the cover and the premise was intriguing so I decided to give it a shot and I am so glad that I did. I FLEW through this book, from beginning to end, and was left at the end of the book feeling SO good.

While I am not Asian, like Kiko, I have definitely struggled with finding my identity between two cultures, wanting a career that most people scoff at (art for her, writing for me) and have dealt with difficult times with my mother. Reading Kiko’s story felt familiar and comfortable, even through all the sad and bad and awkward and hard moments. Kiko is all feeling and emotion but she’s often so afraid to share it and its an interesting journey to follow her on, one where she learns to embrace herself, her artwork and the people around her offering her love and acceptance. Kiko as a character is what makes this a great story. She is multi-faceted and confused and struggling to figure out who she is, while faced with a lot of things. Its hard enough to have confidence as an artist without a mother like hers, constantly putting her down, never giving her any validation in something she takes pride in.

But what I love is Kiko’s struggle with her cultural identity. Her mom is constantly putting her down, while simultaneously asking and begging for validation in her own beauty. She is not white enough for people, even her own mother, and she feels constantly that she stands out and does not fit in. And yet, because she is half white, because she lives with her white mother and her Asian father has not really taught her about her culture, she doesn’t feel connected to that culture at all, and yet she is judged for it all the time. That is incredibly confusing and it is something a lot more people are dealing with as time goes on. I would take a guess that there are more biracial children/young adults than there have been in the past and I think we all sort of go through an identity crisis of not feeling “enough”. I liked that this was an element of Kiko’s story because it was the one that felt so familiar to me, one that I have struggled with my entire life and still struggle with.

Lastly, I really like that Kiko works hard to achieve her goal of becoming an artist and going to art school. I think that there are so many people that shame those who want to do something unconventional, like art or music or writing, and I love that Akemi shows a character going for it, no matter what the world tells her, no matter how many obstacles stand in her way. And she faces a ton of obstacles: lack of support, lack of money, not getting into the school she wanted, even just the insecurity of her own talent. But she keeps going once she starts to earn some support, from old friends and new friends, and as she becomes more confident and comfortable in what she is capable of. I think that’s an important thing to share with teen readers who might feel ashamed or scared to pursue the more “risky” paths that schools often steer students away from. I truly enjoyed that about this book!

RATING:

4 out of 5 Stars

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