Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Title: Starfish
Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: September 26, 2017
Pages: 384
Source/format: Publisher//ARC

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

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.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

"I need a fresh start. I need a real life. I need Prism." - ARC of Starfish

Kiko Himura is a talented artist in her senior year and her dream is to go to Prism Art School in New York. Kiko believes Prism is her ticket out of her traumatizing life. However, her mother always sees that she is not good enough to do certain things. Kiko has always wanted to fit in and to gain approval from her peers and her mother but because she is half Japanese and half white, she feels like people don't like her because she is part Asian. She feels insecure since her mother doesn't support her everyday and some people in school think she is too Asian. This toxic environment is smothering her.

Although I am not bi-racial, I can understand how Kiko feels in regards of not belonging. I am Chinese American and because I went to school in predominately white neighborhood from grade school to high school, I too thought I was too Asian and people might judge me for that. Kiko's fears and worries resonate with me. I also know how it feels to be socially awkward at events like parties. I try to avoid being in those situations if I can because I feel uncomfortable.

Kiko is reunited with her childhood friend, Jamie Merrick, who relocated to California from Nebraska. Sometimes Kiko finds Nebraska stifling because there aren't many Asians living in the area. It doesn't help that her parents are divorced. Her mother has Uncle Max move into the house even though Kiko doesn't like Uncle Max due to a horrible thing that happened in the past. Her mom and uncle blame her for the divorce. Kiko's dad is now remarried and has twins with another women while Kiko lives with her mom, two brothers, a dog and now Uncle Max.

Jamie proposes a wonderful idea for Kiko to travel to California so Kiko can look at art schools in the area. Not only does it provide her an opportunity to find a school that she wants to go to but it provides an escape from her life at home. Kiko meets Hiroshi who helps her achieve her dreams and being the person she wants to be.

Kiko's friend Emery is very supportive of Kiko during tough times like when Kiko finds out she didn't get accepted into Prism. However, Kiko feels afraid to tell Emery everything about her life. She is afraid to tell Emery about what happened to her at the party they went to when a drunk guy forced kissed her and what happened to her with Uncle Max.

Akemi Dawn Bowman wrote a poetic and lyrical novel that touches upon topics that many teens go through. Warning, there are mentions of sexual abuse, social anxiety and emotional abuse in the novel. Bowman includes snippets of Kiko painting at the end of chapters that correlate with Kiko's emotions from each chapter. It's a good way to have readers visualize with their mind how Kiko feels through words and images. Kiko expresses herself through art as a stress reliever and as a way to positive transfer her thoughts and sentiments into something reflective and creative.

Starfish is a dynamic novel about self-identity, acceptance and hope. This heartfelt novel pulls at your heart strings in a way that you feel sympathy for Kiko. Readers see Kiko overcome her fears and she becomes more confident. Her journey is a roller coaster but she prevails at the end.


"We all have to dream our own dreams. We only get one life to live--live it for yourself, not anyone else."

"I paint a carousel of mirrors and dragons, and inside one of the mirrors is the happiest girl alive, desperate to break free."

"If my life were a video game, I would have hit the reset button a long time ago. Art school is my reset button. And I need to push it by myself."

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