Snapshot Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Title: Starfish
Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Series: N/A
Pages: 340
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 26th 2017

TW: emotional and sexual abuse, ableist language, and a suicide attempt.

      “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.

swirl (2)

“It feels like two comets have just collided headfirst into each other, and the aftershock of two hundred earthquakes rolls through my chest.”

  • Biracial IdentityStarfish focuses on Kiki, a biracial teen with a Japanese father and white mother. The novel touches on how Kiki feels caught between two worlds, but not wholly a part of either. It also addresses how different she feels and how racism has affected the way she sees herself.
  • Social anxiety rep – Kiki deals with social anxiety which includes panic attacks. This affects many of her relationships.
  • The MC saves herself – There were a few times when I thought the author was going to take the story in a certain direction, but was pleasantly surprised that Bowman emphasized how important it was for Kiki to save herself instead of letting someone else care for her.
  • Balance between romance and personal arcs – While I did enjoy the romance storyline in this one (it was very sweet seeing Kiki reconnect with her childhood crush), I loved that both characters felt like they struggled with their own things. While Kiki is dealing with trying to find a way out of her mother’s house, Jamie is dealing with the collapse of his parents’ marriage.
  • Kiki’s relationship with a mentor – Kiki has not had the best relationship with the adults in her life. Her mother is emotionally abusive and her father is absent. It was so nice to read a YA book where the most important relationship in a character’s life becomes her connection with an adult character. Kiki ends up being mentored by a local artist and I love how supportive he and his whole family becomes.

  • Equating abuse with mental illness – While I do think it’s important to show teen characters who grow up with abusive parents and showing these teens learning how to break away from that, I wish the book could have separated this from the mother’s mental health issues. Her treatment of her daughter is consistently blamed on her not seeing a therapist for mental health reasons.

  • Akemi Dawn Bowman’s Starfish is one of the most emotional books I’ve ever read and this is due to how well Kiki is written. She’s a fully fleshed-out MC that you can’t help but sympathize with. Starfish is a powerful read that will not be easily forgotten by this reader.


12 thoughts on “Snapshot Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

  1. Hi Alicia! I must admit, I love this new review layout. It highlights the pros and cons in an easy to digest format. But, I’ve always loved your eloquent writing in the longer reviews. It is unfortunate that mental illness was not handled with more nuanced.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I could have sworn there is another book called Starfish about a character whose parent dies, and then the character recites facts about starfish to center him/herself. I believe it is a middle grade novel?

    Liked by 1 person

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