I am so excited to be a part of this blog tour for STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman! Don’t forget that this book will be released in TWO DAYS! Also, be sure to check out and enter the giveaway near the end of this post. 😉
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.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advanced e-copy of STARFISH for an honest review.
Trigger Warnings: emotional abuse, childhood sexual abuse, racism, social anxiety, attempted suicide
I’m the type of reader that has a tendency to become really attached to characters, especially the protagonist that we follow throughout the story. They either become a character who I can see myself being friends with, or a character who I can relate to in some way. With Kiko Himura, the protagonist in Starfish, it was different because I didn’t only see one or the other. This time… I saw me. And coming to that realization was equal parts terrifying and wondrous.
I understood and identified with Kiko on such a deep and emotional level that I found it to be such a struggle to read the first half of the book because that is when we are first shown the unhealthy and destructive home-life Kiko and her siblings live in. It was awful, heartbreaking, and rage-inducing to see her mother be so selfish, narcissistic, and delusional to the point where it was physically draining for her own children to be anywhere near her. Kiko has social anxiety – something I can definitely relate to but never really had a name for until reading this book. There were moments in the book where I wanted to reassure Kiko that everything would be okay and that all she needed to do was take a chance, but I also acknowledged how scary taking that leap can be. I’ve always been the quiet type growing up, and didn’t try breaking out of my shell until college, but I also know that despite going through that, I still have some degree of social anxiety and that is something that is just part of who I am. Like Kiko, I’ve had to learn – and am still trying to everyday – to accept and see the beauty in myself, quirks and all.
I found myself feeling so proud and excited for Kiko as she explored California and discovered more about her Asian culture – a significant part of herself that she had missed out on growing up because of her terrible mother. Maybe because it’s so appalling for me to fully grasp, but I could not understand how her mother could have married and had three children with Kiko’s Asian father, and still be so racist towards anything Asian (even something as simple as anime, for heaven’s sake!), to the point where it distorted her perception of beauty. To Kiko’s mother, there was only one form of beauty: skinny, blonde, and blue-eyed, and anything differing from that was a flaw. I am not Japanese, nor am I half of anything, but I am a Filipino Asian American who grew up in California, so seeing Kiko finally break free from her racist and toxic home town – and even worst mother – was such a relief. It was beautiful seeing Kiko discover, not only her Asian culture, but also an inner strength and courage she never knew was there.
The whole best-friends-turned-lovers arc is something I’m always wary about in books because I don’t believe in it, but the romance between Kiko and Jamie was so sweet and beautifully developed. It did not feel like insta-love at all. On the contrary, Kiko and Jamie actually go through a lot of growth throughout their friends-to-more-than-friends relationship and it was so lovely to see that. Jamie is sweet, charming, understanding, and, like Kiko, has an artistic eye. Except while she utilizes pencils and paints to create images, Jamie captures them with his camera. He and Kiko hadn’t seen each other since they were children so the awkward reunion period was understandable; they were different people now, more grown up and have gone through so many things in their short lives, Kiko especially. I liked how Jamie did not immediately know about Kiko’s social anxiety and had to gradually learn to be more patient and understanding with her.
Poignant, absolutely beautiful, and filled to the brim with raw emotions, Starfish will slowly shatter your heart then put it back together again; this time more whole, filled with an unyielding light, and beating stronger than ever before. A truly inspirational and empowering read about family, love, and self-discovery that will stay with me forever.
(1) Signed + Personalized Copy of STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Akemi Dawn Bowman is the author of STARFISH. She’s a proud Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from UNLV. Originally from Las Vegas, she currently lives in England with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix. STARFISH will be published later this year (9/26/17, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster), with a second YA contemporary to follow in Fall 2018. She is represented by Penny Moore of Empire Literary.
Thanks for stopping by! And a huge thank you to Melanie from Rich in Variety Tours for organizing this blog tour! Check out and follow along with the rest of the tour below!
Blog Tour Schedule
September 22, 2017
Ceillie – Candid Ceillie – Author Interview
Jacquie – Rattle the Stars – Aesthetic/Mood Board
Lili – Utopia State of Mind – Giveaway
Michelle – Magical Reads – Author Interview
Rachel – Life of a Female Bibliophile – Giveaway
September 23, 2017
Morgan + Allison – Take Me Away To A Great Read – Giveaway
Breeny – Breeny’s Books – Author Interview
Brooke – The Layaway Dragon – Giveaway
Angela – Books of a Shy Girl – Music Playlist
Tia – CT Callahan – Giveaway
Heather – The Hermit Librarian – Music Playlist
Wendy – Whatthelog – Author Interview
September 24, 2017
Laura – Green Tea & Paperbacks – Music Playlist
Danielle – PoetryBooksYA – Music Playlist
Jessica – CrumbCatBooks – Giveaway
Carolin – Between the Pages – Author Interviews
Mina – My Fangirl Chronicles – Giveaway
Savanah – Off-Color Literature – Author Interview
September 25, 2017
Mishma – Chasing Faerytales – Giveaway
Cindy – Cindy Baldwin Books – Author Interview
Bri – Bri’s Book Blog – Music Playlist
Kelly – Audeamus. Let us dare. – Giveaway
Marianne – Boricuan Bookworm – Giveaway
Samantha – A History of Books – Music Playlist
September 26, 2017
Inge – Of Wonderland – Giveaway
Rebekka – Rooted in Fiction – Music Playlist
Imani – Introvert Problems – Author Interview
Jackie – Too Much of a Booknerd – Giveaway
Rachel – Rachie Reads – Music Playlist