Book Reviews, YA book reviews

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman



My Rating ~ Four stars

4-gold-stars copy

Released: 26 September 2017

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Format: E-Book

Pages: 340 pages

Source:  Received from Simon and Schuster via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Available here:  

Book Depository  |  Amazon Au  |  Booktopia  |  Angus & Robertson


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.





Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for providing me with an E-ARC of this book to review via Netgalley.  

Kiko is a half asian girl who is just trying to fit in to a small town, where it seems she’s just too different to everyone else.  With a mother who sneers at asian culture and takes every opportunity to let Kiko know she will never be beautiful and popular like her, Kiko can’t wait to get away and start art school.  But when Kiko doesn’t get in to art school, her world seems to fall apart.  Her best friend is leaving, her horrible uncle, she has every right to be terrified of, is coming to stay and her anxiety is spiralling out of control.  At the same time, her oldest childhood friend arrives back in town.  Will they be able to pick up their friendship where they left off and does Kiko have any chance of piecing her crumbling life back together?

This was such a beautiful and sad story.  I originally picked it up because I realised I haven’t read many stories with an asian protagonist and I enjoy reading books from the point of view of someone from a diverse background to mine.  I am always so aware that I will never be able to understand what life is really like for them, but I try as hard as I can to connect with their feelings.  The author did a wonderful job of illustrating the racial issues Kiko experienced, even from within her own family.  The anxiety rep was done really well and I enjoyed the fact that another character didn’t just sweep in and ‘fix’ the issue for her, as so often seems to happen when a character suffers from anxiety in a book.  Starfish highlighted so many important and confronting topics – sexual abuse, mental health issues, anxiety, racial struggles, the sometimes unhealthy desire to please our parents at any cost and life path disappointment.  There was no insta-love and nothing was tied up in a neat little bow, and that seemed so fitting to the story.

Overall, Starfish was a heart-wrenching contemporary novel that was definitely worth reading.



Starfish pic by


Photo via my Instagram account – Bookbookowl


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