Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Pages: 258 (E-Book)
Publisher: Ink Road / Black and White Publishing
Publication: 5th April, 2018
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 as 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 transformative truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book!
*TW: sexual abuse, mental abuse, attempted suicide
To be honest, I was not sure what awaited me before I read it. I had never heard of Starfish before, but the cover immediately made me look into it. Because that cover is definitely one of the most beautiful I have ever laid my eyes upon. And it sounded interesting, too.
This book follows Kiko, an Japanese-American girl who lives in a town where she is an outsider. Because she feels different for being Asian, she does not feel like she belongs. And she is not realy accepted which makes her self-conscious. Her mother only adds to her being uncomfortable in her skin because she is a narcissistic woman who looks exactly the way Kiko will never look: the personification of a good American woman. Kiko is mostly alone, her mother only cares about herself and her brothers are practically strangers, each of the siblings trying to protect themselves in their own ways.
But Kiko grows so much over the course of the story.
When Jamie, her childhood best friend, returns to the town, and helps her cope with everything. She does not rely on him, but she accepts his help and learns that she is not alone. But that there are indeed people who care for her. She slowly becomes the person she wants to be and accepts herself. That transformation was so wonderful to read about, it was so real and felt so harsh and raw and really got into me.
Kiko comes from a very broken family. As I said before, her mother is very egoistic and narcissistic, the father has left the family to live with his new love and their two children. Kiko’s older brothers copes by trying not to care about anything at all, her younger brother tries not to get any attention and learning more about Japanese culture. But none of them really talks about their feelings or about how bad it actually is, so of course the whole fragile drama is going to implode sooner or later. And it was written very detailed and I just sat there, being all emotional and rooting very much for Kiko and her brothers.
But the connection between Kiko and Jamie was written beautifully as well. Best friends once, they tried to pick up at that point again, but both of them have changed. They are not the people they knew anymore, but they try so hard and even though it is tough for them, they manage and get closer again and I just… I love them.
And also the whole thing with Kiko being great with art and art being a main theme through the book was great. Because through that, it was even better for the reader to see how much Kiko grows. She draws things that affect her life, she being different and being a target of racism, her narcissistic mother, her friends, the people who help her.
I don’t even know if there was anything I disliked about that book. Starfish is definitely a reading recommendation. I loved it. Very much. And it will be soemthing I’ll think about for a very long time. It was so, so intense.