About The Book
Synopsis: 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.
Starfish is a story about a teenage girl named Kiko. She has two siblings Taro (oldest) and Shoji (the youngest). Her parents are divorced and she lives with her mom and her dad is remarried with kids. Kiko is biracial (White and Asian) and struggles to fit in socially (an outcast) and with her cultural identity. She just wants to be seen as Kiko rather than being labeled beautiful or exotic. Kiko strives to find where she truly belongs. On top of everything, her mom’s unhappiness makes the environment at home unbearable. Kiko wants attention from her mom but doesn’t get it. Instead, her mom constantly degrades her. This is novel portrays a view of what it’s like to be biracial, as Kiko deals with racial slurs and insensitive comments on a daily basis.
I really felt for Kiko throughout the entire story she is such a bright girl who has such big dreams but her insecurities, lack of self-confidence, and her overbearing mom are all obstacles that hold her back. Though she feels alone, I was glad that she could find solace in her best friend, Emery and through reconnecting with her childhood friend, Jamie.
Kiko’s journey is one of self-discovery to find out who she is and what she wants to convey in her artwork. It’s also a story of transition since Kiko is going from high school to college. She is presented with many challenges in order to get closer to her dream of going to Prism, a prestigious art school. During her summer of self-discovery she learns about her heritage and becomes more connected to it. The reader can see through Kiko’s eyes that this is not an easy process to achieve her dreams. While story is sad and heartbreaking at times, the end is truly satisfying.
Bowen is a terrific writer. The plot was smooth throughout the entire novel and it was engaging too. She makes Kiko’s story relatable to readers who will be able to resonate with some part of the main character’s life. I absolutely loved Jamie coming back into Kiko’s life (and stories such as this where childhood friends reconnect). Jamie was so supportive of her even though he was struggling with his own personal issues. They were both able to confide in one another and acted as a shoulder to lean on.
I love the cover art for the book! It’s absolutely gorgeous and it’s so vibrant too! The meaning behind the title and how it is incorporated into the book is so powerful. Starfish is a highly recommended read!
*Trigger Warnings: Emotional/Sexual Abuse