Starfish

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 26 Sep 2017

Member Reviews

Fantastic depiction of social anxiety. I think this book is a great example of how mental health should be represented in literature.
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Emotionally complex. Given the early chapters we might expect a focus on sexual abuse, but really the heart of this story is the emotionally destructive mother. Really, the ways in which all the relationships in a family can be broken. Some of it doesn't make a lot of sense and some plot elements happen a bit too easily.
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I had a difficult time getting into this book, and I don't feel comfortable reviewing it. Sorry.
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This is a stirring book about a dysfunctional family and one that all teens should read if they feel disconnected to a parent
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Oh wow, this book punched me in the emotions and kept beating me until the last page. I think this book is not only needed but something that will help a lot of people. The one thing that I did not like though was the language that was used for the character that had mental health issues. But, considering the things that happened in this story it was realistic, not pleasant or something that I was expecting, but again was realistic. I don't want to give too much away because I really think that everyone should read this book to find your own answers and opinions.
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I'm still breathless over this book. An engaging story that brings you to have feelings over every single character, not just giving depth to the main character but each character having their own depth. They each have their own stories that caused rage, sorrow, glee, and fear rush through me.
The book follows Kiko, a half-white hand-Japanese girl, who struggles with her relationship with her mother who as a white woman doesn't understand the struggles of being a PoC. Her mother treats others as if the world surrounded her, causing Kiko to need any stray of light her mother would offer her.  Kiko struggles with learning to love herself, especially after her own mother wouldn't believe that she was sexually assaulted by her uncle, and she finds her own place in the world with help of Jamie, her friend and love interest, and Hiroshi , her mentor. She finds out of a whole world she was deprived of and learns that she needs to love herself in a world that tries to focus on anything other than her.
This book divulges into heavy topics. The ignoring of sexual assault within the family. The ignoring of parental abuse. The ignoring of racism in our own households. The ignoring of suicidal behavior. The ignoring of how social anxiety is a struggle to live with. 
Side note here: this book is the first time I found my social anxiety accurately represented, and not something just made light of.
There were moments where the book got slow, but in the end of it all I don't mind them. Kiko deserved those slow moments that lead to her loving herself. She grows slowly but we at the end we know she will grow into who she wants to be and not who her mother wanted her to be.
TW: sexual assault, parental abuse, suicide attempt, emotional abuse, racism
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Oh my gosh, I was beyond excited to be able to request this one and was beyond thrilled when I was accepted. I've been eyeing that gorgeous cover for awhile now!  I was quite intrigued as the cover is a jellyfish, but the book is called starfish and nothing in the description seemed to match either images. 
I really really loved this story. The social anxiety representation was SPOT on!
I absolutely love that the main character was Asian. I am not Asian myself, but one of my closest friends are and I rarely ever see their culture represented in a book so that made me very happy. Plus, I love reading and learning about other cultures as well!
This book was incredibly well written and I can't wait to reach more by the author
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Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Publisher: Simon Pulse

[UPDATED] I’m changing themes to Trigger/Content warnings, as I’d like to start adding them to my reviews: attempted suicide, parental abuse, emotional abuse, sexual assault/abuse, anxiety

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: 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.

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My Review

EDIT: (forgot to mention this when I first posted) I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I’m going to start off by saying while I really, really appreciated this book, it was not an easy read. There were a few times where I had to put it down and do something else for a little bit before I could come back to it. Even though it was difficult, I think this fact made this book feel even more real. If I wasn’t invested in the characters, I wouldn’t have had a hard time reading it.

The portrayal of anxiety in this book is the most accurate I’ve ever read. I can’t even begin to explain how relatable the anxiety in this book was for me, since I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. It meant a lot to me to see myself reflected so strongly in a character, and to hear her story told beautifully and accurately. I also appreciated that this book didn’t follow the trope of “love cures all” (mental illness). Our main character is going to struggle with these things for the rest of her life, and falling in love won’t cure that.

This was also the first time I’ve really seen truly awful, but realistic emotional abuse depicted on the page. I’m lucky enough to have parents who love me more than anything, and they are in NO way like Kiko’s mother, but I can see parallels with how Kiko’s mother treats her and how a lot of parents believe they can treat their children. I can relate to the feeling of never being good enough for your parents, and being constantly anxious that you’re going to let someone down. Seeing the relationship between Kiko and her mother was fascinating, though also incredibly frustrating and painful. My only complaint is that both Kiko’s parents seemed a little bit flat, and I wish their characters had been developed a bit more.

I also wish Kiko’s relationships with her brothers could have been explored more. We did get a bit towards the end, but I wish there had been more of a close relationship between the siblings. It would have made some things in the plot even more interesting to examine and explore, particularly with Kiko being the middle child.

By far my favorite aspect of this book was the depiction of Kiko’s art. I want all of these pieces made and hung in my room immediately. I loved watching Kiko’s art develop along with her character, and the descriptions of her art at the end of each chapter made the emotional impact so much stronger. This combined with the lovely writing style broke my heart so many times, and I wish I could have seen the art physically on the page, rather than just in words.

Another aspect that I loved about this story was the discussion of race, and how racism can be internalized and institutionalized. Racism isn’t always one race against another, you can have racist ideas about your own race, depending on how you are raised to view your culture. It was so intriguing to watch Kiko discover her own culture for the first time, and really view it in a positive way.

Apart from all this, I absolutely adored Jamie and Kiko’s chosen family. All of the characters that Kiko meets along her journey are so supportive and loving, and it made me really happy to see her come into her own, away from all the horrors of her biological family’s life.

-Sky
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When I first requested Akemi Dawn Bowman’s novel, Starfish, I didn’t really know much about it other than the fact that it had one of the most gorgeous book covers I’ve ever seen.  I was completely unprepared for the emotional punch this book would pack.  Covering a wide spectrum of heavy subjects such as sexual and emotional abuse as well as suicide, Starfish is not an easy read by any means, but ultimately it is a powerful story about discovering who you really are and what you want out of life. 

Starfish follows the story of Kiko Himura, a high school senior who suffers from social anxiety and therefore often has trouble expressing herself and fitting in.  Kiko, however, is also a gifted artist who uses her art to say what she can’t seem to say with words.  One of Kiko’s biggest dreams is to get into the prestigious Prism art school.  She feels like once she gets away from home and can throw herself into her art, her real life can finally begin.    

Kiko is also half Japanese and her parents are divorced.  She lives with her mother, who is blond haired, blue eyed and is obsessed with her appearance.  She also constantly makes Kiko feel unattractive and implies that she would be more attractive if she were not of Asian descent. Her mother is also a narcissist and so whenever Kiko tries to talk to her, she always manages to twist the topic around and make it about herself.  On top of that, instead of supporting Kiko in what she is passionate about, Kiko’s mom belittles her art and can’t be bothered to attend Kiko’s art shows at school. 
Then, as if Kiko’s mom isn’t bad enough, Kiko’s abusive uncle moves in with them.  After an incident that took place the last time he lived in their house when Kiko woke up and found him in her bedroom, Kiko now refuses to live in the same house as him.  She tells her mother as much, but her mom ignores her and tells her she is being overly dramatic about what happened.  

Kiko longs for her mother to believe her and support her and let her know that she cares, but it just feels like that’s never going to happen.  She knows she needs to get away from the toxic environment that she is living in, but her dreams are shattered when she receives a rejection notice from Prism. Having applied to no other schools, Kiko doesn’t have a Plan B.  How will she recover from this unexpected rejection? Will she ever get the support and affection that she so craves from her mother or does Plan B involve starting over alone somewhere new?   What happens next for Kiko?

LIKES

I fell in love with Kiko right away. As someone who also tends to get very anxious in social situations, I felt an immediate connection to Kiko as I watched her struggle to interact both at school and at parties.  The author did a wonderful job in those scenes of portraying social anxiety and how truly crippling it can be.  

Kiko was also a favorite of mine because she’s such a sympathetic character.  In addition to her social anxiety issues, her home life is just awful.  It’s hard enough being a child of divorced parents, but it’s especially hard if you feel like the parent you’re living with doesn’t seem to care about you and either ignores you or criticizes you every time they see you.  I absolutely loathed Kiko’s mother and the way she treated Kiko.  At the same time though, I completely understood why Kiko kept trying to connect with her and kept trying to show her the art she was working on.  It’s completely natural for a child to want their parent’s approval and it was heartbreaking to watch Kiko keep getting rejected every time she tried.  I just wanted to give her a big hug and tell her she deserved better because it was obviously killing Kiko’s sense of self-worth.  

Even though Kiko’s mom had no interest in Kiko’s artwork, I sure did.  Some of my favorite scenes in Starfish were where we got to see Kiko immerse herself in her art.  Watching her completely at ease with herself because she’s in her element and then reading the author’s descriptions of what she was actually drawing and painting honestly made me wish the book was illustrated.  The art work sounded so gorgeous and magical!  
Aside from Kiko herself, some of the other elements of Starfish I really enjoyed were the overall themes.  There is a huge focus on beauty, with a specific emphasis on the message that there is no set idea for what is considered beautiful.  We’re all beautiful in our own unique way, and someone who is Asian is just as beautiful as someone who happens to be blond and blue-eyed.  To go along with that truth about what is beautiful, there is also a huge emphasis on self-love.  You should love yourself exactly as you are and not let anyone make you feel bad about yourself.  

Along the lines of accepting that you’re beautiful just the way you are, Starfish can also be considered a powerful coming of age story.  After she is rejected from the art school of her dreams, Kiko embarks on a journey of self-discovery to slowly but surely figure out who she really is, what she wants from life, and how she can stand on her own two feet regardless of whether or not she has her mother’s support and approval.  It’s an often painful journey for Kiko, but in the end, it’s a beautiful one that is full of hope and promise.  
One final element of the story that I liked was Kiko’s reunion with a long-lost friend from her childhood.  There is a romantic element there and I liked the way the author handled the transition from friends to lovers.  I also liked that the romance wasn’t just a way for Kiko to escape her home life, but that in a twist I really liked, it also presented Kiko with some unexpected opportunities and allowed her to make some empowering decisions about her future. 

DISLIKES/ISSUES

Aside from my utter dislike of Kiko’s mother, I don’t really have anything for this section.  And even though I completely disliked her, she was still an incredibly well drawn character and served an important purpose in Kiko’s story.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I think Starfish is going to be one of those books that I will continue to think about long after finishing the last page.  As I mentioned earlier, it packs an emotional punch and Kiko’s journey is one that I think many readers will relate to on some level, whether it’s the feeling like you don’t belong, feeling like you’re not good enough, or dealing with a less than ideal home life.  For this reason and because the writing and storytelling is top notch, I fully expect to see Starfish on many ‘Best of’ 2017 lists before the end of the year.  
 
RATING: 4.5 STARS
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I felt such a personal connection to Kiko, the main character. I'm not biracial, nor half-Japanese, but there was a whole lot about Kiko's life and personality that I related to so hard. It made the read that much more special to me, because it's not very often when I can say that a book is basically my life.

*Kiko is a middle child
*with two brothers
*she's shy and quiet
*awkward and has social anxiety
*parties make her super anxious, and she feels better when she's got friends like Jamie and Emery around 
*feels weird for fangirling and showing her passion for things
*is a dreamer and a creative type
*doesn't like confrontation
*but wants so badly for people to see her feelings
*yet she's always scared those she loves will get angry or dislike her for feeling different from what they want
*but she's so courageous, and she learns how to demand better from people
*I'm going through a similar situation re: the relationship Kiko has with her Mom, but with a cousin of mine. I know starfish in my life too, and it SUCKS.

So yeah, I ended up absolutely loving this book, and all I wanted while reading it was to give Kiko a big hug and tell her that she deserved better from many people in her life. I loved that this book didn't tie everything into a neat little bow (especially with her mental health) and that it had so much good in it, especially the relationships Kiko makes with others. Just absolutely WONDERFUL.

Rating: 4.5 Paw Prints!
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okay well I FREAKING LOVED THIS.

IT WAS SO GOOD.
AHHHHHHHHHH.

SO MANY FREAKING STARS because as someone Asian, I connected to this too damn much. 
The main character, Kiko, is half white and half Japanese, and... I could relate to her insecure feelings about being Asian.

In today's society (I say society too much tbh) one of the standards of beauty is white, tall, and skinny. 

IF YOU'RE NONE OF THOSE THINGS YOU ARE STILL BEAUTIFUL OKAY YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND THERE ARE DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF BEAUTy AND YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL OKAY? OKAY. 

*exhales* I really hate the impression that people have, that being skinny or being tall is equivalent to beauty- it is not. It is not. It is not. If you're skinny and/or tall, you're still beautiful! If you AREN'T, you're still beautiful!

Kiko feels really insecure because she's not white. During her childhood, once this really racist guy said that he couldn't date Kiko because "he doesn't like girls that look like her." AKA ASIAN.

I think they were in elementary school, but I!! STILL!! AM!! MAD!!! This is a huge example of ingrained racism and how these impressions stay with people from when they're young. 

Kiko also has anxiety and hello? I can relate even more. She struggles with going to parties without friends, and she gets really nervous when she doesn't have someone to be with. 

Do you hear people screaming "same" into the night? BECAUSE THAT IS ME.

I love Kiko as a character, and throughout the story she progresses and grows- and she learns to stand up on her own two legs. This was such a great coming-of-age novel, and I seriously recommend it for anyone- but especially for Asians.
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Ok I really connected with this book! I really loved Kiko I thought she was a really relatable character and the term starfish and what it was used for really mattered for me. Most YA books I've read with a "damaged" parental relationship almost always ends with the characters fixing or working on trying to fix there relationship. Which can be really frustrating for people like me who have discovered that not all relationships are fixable or worth fixing in the first place, It was really nice to be able to see my own situation in a book. Also I loved that Kiko was biracial and dealt with issues like where she fit in and I could really appreciate it since I am also biracial! I found quite a few quotable moments in this book that really resounded with me and I am really happy that I got the chance to read this book. I do have a few gripes with this book however which made me lower my rating there was a lot of Abelist language wish was really unenjoyable.. Also I really wish we would of got some more development with her brothers I really would of liked to learn more about them.
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This book messed me up in the best way. The writing is absolutely stunning. Just gorgeous and lyrical and so descriptive that I can almost see the art that Kiko describes. The characters were perfectly developed and the exploration of anxiety and self-image issues were so so well done. I cannot scream enough about how well done they were. There is no easy answer to both the mental health and coming of age struggles Kiko faces, but there is always hope and options and the author portrays this in such a realistic and healthy way I cannot praise it enough.

As an abusive mother escapee, it was too easy to relate to Kiko’s struggle with her mother. That desperate need for the smallest token of affection & those feelings of responsibility even when you logically know that you’re being manipulated were so painfully familiar that I spent the entire book mentally screaming at her but also feeling like my own heart was being ripped from my chest. So basically my favorite kind of reading experience.

I also have a strong appreciation for the fact that even though there is a romance – it doesn’t dominate the story or Kiko’s decision making. She isn’t magically cured by Jamie’s love. AND IT IS BASICALLY SCREAMED IN TEXT THAT LOVE DOESN’T CURE YOU. Bless you Akemi.

If you’re looking for a brutally emotional story about learning to love yourself and figuring out how to choose putting your own happiness & dreams first, Starfish is definitely the book for you.
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Starfish is honest, brutal, and so fricken beautiful.

Kiko is a half-Japanese/half-white seventeen-year-old living in Midwest suburbia. I can't even find the right words to truly express how much I wish I had this book as a teenager, and how I believe Starfish will help so many teens, especially Asian-Americans, right now. I'm half-Filipino/half-Mexican and I grew up in Midwest suburbia - most of my classmates were white and it was brutal growing up wishing I had blonde hair and blue eyes. It took me over 20 years before I embraced my heritage and reading Kiko's story completely broke me because I was where she was.

She's struggling with her self-esteem, identity, and so much more (no spoilers). There are so many factors that go beyond her struggles like her relationships with her friend(s) and especially her family. Everything about Kiko's life was relatable because all of our struggles do stem from different aspects of our lives. School, work, friendships, family - everything. And that's what we get from Kiko's story. We dig into all of her issues with everything in her life and how they have shaped who she is and where she ends up.

You'll feel Kiko's loneliness but you'll also feel her hope. I cried on more than one occasion while reading because she's such a real character that you instantly feel connected to her. You want her to find her strength at the end of the story as if she was you.

All of the characters bring something to the story - you'll love some and you'll hate others. Jamie + the romance throughout the story was the icing on the cake. It was sweet, romantic, and reminded me of falling in love for the first time. 
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Guys, this book is everything. I’m not even going to bother giving a proper introduction to why I chose to request this book, what my initial thoughts were, blah blah blah.

This book is the most gorgeous thing to ever exist.

Yes, I’m being dramatic

No, I’m not overreacting

Don’t question me on this, just trust me, alright?

Akemi Dawn Bowman, you’ve just got yourself a lifelong reader. I will read every book you ever come out with in the future because I know that if they’re even a fraction as wonderful as Starfish, I will be in love with it forever.

Now onto my actual review because you all deserve to know why I love this book so much.

Starfish follows Kiko, a half-Japanese, half-white girl that loves to draw and paint. She desperately wants to get into Prism, her dream school. She constantly craves acceptance from her mother, who never compliments her or her art.

Kiko is a character that has gone through a lot in life. She suffers from sexual abuse that her mother doesn’t believe happened (yeah, seriously, her mother can go to hell), trauma from having a mother constantly put her down her entire life, social anxiety, and being judged for being biracial by almost everyone she knows.

Her mother thinks she’s too different, too ugly, too Asian. Five pages into the book and I already hated her mother with a fiery passion. She’s over-controlling and has to make everything about her. She doesn’t care about how her actions or words effect anyone, even her children. She thinks about herself before she thinks about others.

“I don’t have to be white to be beautiful, just like I don’t have to be Asian to be beautiful. Because beauty doesn’t come in one mold.”

Kiko was raised to believe that being half-Asian is something to be ashamed of. Her mother never called her pretty – always pointing out her flaws – AKA: her Japanese side. Thus, she grew to have low self-esteem and always felt like somebody was judging her for the words she says, the way she looks, etc.

It was heartbreaking to see that in a character – a character that represents all Asian-Americans – that feel different, that feel like being different is something bad.

Kiko grew so much as a character during this book. She stood up to her mother, and most importantly, she started putting herself first. She started putting her mental health – she has social anxiety – first.

“And I decided, right there and then, that I don’t care if I’m not someone’s idea of pretty. I don’t care if my name might disappoint someone, or if my face might disappoint someone’s parents. Because that says so much more about them than it does about me.”

This novel is such a wonderfully written insight on what it’s like to be Asian-American and not fitting in. More importantly, this novel gives a voice to those that feel like they don’t belong in their own home, in their own city, in their own country.

The author also described what it’s like to have social anxiety perfectly. You feel like everybody is watching and analyzing and judging your every move. You run words and sentences through your head a dozen times before you decide to speak. You question everything you say and do and you always feel pressured to talk and make normal conversation but you can never bring yourself to do so.

I will never stop recommending this book to people because it’s a book I think a lot of people should read. It deals with such important topics and Kiko’s inner thoughts will break you apart and mend you back together just to break you apart again.

I have a soft spot for this book. I will always have a soft spot for this book and I cannot wait to see what masterpiece the author decides to write next.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Overall, this book explored the dynamics of a broken family, the inner thoughts of a girl breaking from the lack of love from her mother, and the way one can heal itself and others. I highly recommend it to everyone looking for a book that will tear out your heart and mess with your emotions over and over again.
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Trigger Warning: childhood sexual abuse, emotional abuse, anxiety, suicide attempt.

This story is beautiful and heart-wrenching all at the same time. Starfish tells the story of Kiko Himura, a Japanese-American woman who deals with childhood trauma, social anxiety, and a narcissistic mother. This story really dives down deep into many difficult topics while still telling a story that is inspiring.

Kiko has many struggles she deals with throughout the book and I am highly impressed by how this story is told, especially being a debut novel. Akemi Dawn Bowman writes a sad, yet beautiful story. I really loved the writing style of this book. The chapters were nice and short, just the way I like them to be. At the end of almost every chapter is a description of a piece of art Kiko creates that relates to her everyday life and how she is emotionally feeling that day. It truly is spectactular and this really gives the reader a peek into Kiko's head as to what emotional state she is in and also how she perceives herself and the world around her. These were my favorite parts of the book.

"I draw a woman wearing an elaborate dress, twirling like she's made of light and sun. And then I draw a shriveled girl trapped within her shadow. She doesn't want the light--she just wants her mom."

What I really loved about this story is the fact that Kiko realized how dependent she was on her friends. Depending first on her friend Emery, and then her friend Jamie. She doesn't deny this problem but decides that if she wants to be her own person, she must first stop depending on others and gain confidence in being on her own. I thought this was a strong characteristic that she possessed.

"I don't want to need anyone. I want to stand on my own two feet. I want to control my own life and my own emotions. I don't want to be a branch in someone else's life anymore--I want to be the tree on my own."

I put a trigger warning for anxiety at the beginning of this review because I thought it was important for those with anxiety to be aware of the content of this book. I myself suffer from anxiety and the author did a spot-on job of describing exactly how social anxiety feels. Because of how spot-on the author described Kiko's anxiety, it very well could trigger your own anxiety by reading this book as it did mine. I still one hundred percent recommend this book to be read by all who suffer from anxiety, but to just be aware that it could be a possible trigger. Same goes for the other trigger warnings as well.

"Normal people don't need to prepare for social interactions. Normal people don't panic at the sight of strangers. Normal people don't want to cry because the plan they've processed in their head is suddenly not the plan that's going to happen."

If you aren't aware of the #ownvoices hashtag that has gone around on Twitter, it basically means that the author has written a book that they themselves have been through. For example, Akemi Dawn Bowman is a Japanese-American with social anxiety herself, just as the main character, Kiko is. I really appreciated the fact that she was able to share this with us. This just makes me respect her and her work even more.

I just want to add that I really appreciated the romance in this novel. It is no way the focus of the book, but it is a lovely addition. It is a slow-burn romance which is my favorite type of romance to read. It didn't seem to overpower the transformation Kiko goes through, but adds to the story over-all.

"I don't drive north or south or east or west. I drive forward."

Starfish is just an all-around empowering and inspiring novel. While it does deal with difficult issues, I think this book is an important read. I recommend it to everyone. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, and Akemi Dawn Bowman for an advanced copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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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.
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Hi. I read this book and I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO START???

Starfish was so I incredibly beautiful. It's just that book WHERE YOU CAN'T EVEN. Words do not suffice at this point. What's the point of writing a review WHEN YOU CAN JUST READ THIS BOOK? I will try and fail, to review this book (but omg it's so much more than that). I have so much to say about this book BUT HOW DO I WRITE AGAIN?

Let's start with our Main Character, Kiko, WHO IS HALF-ASIAN (half white). Can we just appreciate that for a moment? While I couldn't really relate to her feeling out of place because of being Japanese (London is very multicultural) but Kiko is SO GOD DAMN SWEET AND REALISTIC. She goes through SO FREAKING MUCH and I just want to hug her and be like...FLIP LIFE ATM. 

And her character arc is so beautiful. She has social anxiety (I think the rep was DONE REALLY REALLY EXTREMELY WELL. I don't have anxiety but GOSH, this was just described in such a real, raw way) and she likes to draw and paint (!!) and I love literally every sentence that was about her painting. Her passion, her hobby, was SO MAGICAL. I could literally see Kiko's paintings in front of my eyes. 

This book had the best messages...LIKE EVER. It's all about beauty, HOW BEAUTY COMES IN DIFFERENT FORMS, how Asians can be pretty (I hate you Adam. just letting you know) how beauty is different, not just in one form, it's not blond hair and blue eyes, it's not celebrities and magazines, it's you and loving you and I JUST APPRECIATED THIS BOOK FOR THAT.

"Beauty isn't a single thing. Beauty is dreaming - it's different for everyone, and there are so many versions of it that you mostly have no control over how you see it."

And the romance was SPOT ON. I really really enjoyed it. it was perfect slow burn and Kiko made she was actually ready for Jamie, for a relationship. She gave time for herself, and at the end, she LOVED herself and no matter how much it pained her, she made herself stronger and she was stronger. She was such a strong character. And when they were together, OMG IT WAS WRITTEN PERFECTLY SO THAT I SHIPPED THEM TOO MUCH.

I really liked that Kiko got to know more about her Japanese Heritage. This was a lot about Kiko finding herself, loving herself, accepting herself and coming to terms with; YES SHE IS HALF-AISAN, YES SHE CAN BE PRETTY, SHE CAN't PLEASE EVERYONE, SOME LOVE IS TOXIC and literally the list goes on. What I'm trying to say, THE MESSAGES ARE SO PROMINENT AND RIGHT AND PERFECT and they're added so amazingly into the book. 

The writing IS TO DIE FOR and I clicked with it immediately. I practically finished this book in one sitting and it was so addicting and so easy. I didn't feel like I had to concentrate, I was so immersed in the character's and what was happening which is super surprising for a contemporary book. Bowman IS ACTUALLY A MASTER AT WRITING. it is so pretty and want to add like 50 quotes from the book here. It wasn't slow at all, It was paced so well. 

He doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve; he keeps it in a locked box with all of his dreams and expressions because he doesn't want to share them with the rest of the world 

Also rant time; The Mum

OMG KIKO'S MUM WAS UTTER TRASH. I get if she was going through tough times herself or had a mental illness but NO SHE IS JUST PLAIN RACIST... TO HER OWN CHILDREN Sorry she doesn't know what 'unconditional love is' Fine. Don't be a good mother but when (view spoiler) I officially hate starfishes now BECAUSE OMG YOU SELF-CENTRED little...UGHHH. I HATE her with a passion. She literally always ruins Kiko's mood and (view spoiler)Literally all she cares about is just HER REPUTATION and HER LIFe. GO FRICKING DIE OKAY. She literally changes her moods ALL THE TIME and makes everything about her. I could give you about a million examples of how Kiko's mum is SO WRONG IN EVERY WAY. She lies and SHE IS SO MANIPULATIVE. 

And you know what. I GET Kiko for wanting her mother's love and approval. I so so get that. Because what child doesn't? I get why Kiko gave in nearly every time and I think that's what makes Kiko real. Because she's not perfect. She was a child who wanted her mum. AND I AM SO GLAD that was acknowledged and her character at the end, was different and she realised that her mum's love was some fake version of love! THANK YOU

I do think this had some parallel's with Eliza and her monsters; Art, brothers she doesn't really know, social anxiety but the stories definitely are very different. I just thought about this a lot when reading. I also would have loved more of some characters like; her best friend (forgot her name??), the dad and their side and a few more but I think everything was very seamless.I also think Jamie was a little TOO PERFECT but besides the point...

I need like a moment. No 78 moments. I had like emotions. No like 56 emotions. I can't even X 5678 okay?? THIS BOOK MADE ME WHOLE. It's just so so IMPORTANT and so BEAUTIFUL and it's exactly the kind of book YOU SHOULD BE READING RIGHT NOW.

Also please appreciate the cover. Thanks
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I can see how this book would appeal to teens, especially mixed-race teens who are struggling with being different in a homogeneous community. However, I didn't like a lot of the ableist language used, and the author never explicitly states that what happens with Kiko at the party is ALSO sexual assault. She keeps calling it her messed up first kiss--no.
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I read my first review on this book and knew immediately it was one I had to read. It was sad, beautiful, and so achingly real. I've often wondered how families of different cultures handled sharing these differences with their children. In this case, not well at all. 
Kiko's mom was a real piece of work and so, so familiar. Though the author never specifically said she was bipolar, from personal experience, I assumed so.  I grew up with a sister who is dead on this starfish. This is such an apt description for a bipolar individual and so much better than "bat-shit crazy" (my description for her for the last 40+ years).  
Unfortunately, until about 10 years ago, I wasn't very familiar with this condition. Also unfortunately, my granddaughter is barely surviving growing up in similar circumstances. A Mom that is always criticizing her, telling her that she is useless, ugly and not worth the air she breathes. A Mom that keeps her isolated so that she doesn't have friends nor develop life skills. She "home schools" her. This is her way of having total control and being answerable to no one.
For the most part, as grandparents, your hands are tied. Offering emotional support and simply being there for them is about the sum total of help that you can give. If you attempt to run interference then you get cut totally out of their life.  Unless the bipolar parent is physically abusive, you can do little. In most cases, the bipolar individual presents a totally different face to outsiders. Outsiders typically think you are overreacting.
This book shows how this emotionally cripples the children caught in the middle of the vicious cycle where everything revolves around the starfish. It's me! me! me! 24/7. Anxiety and fear becomes a way of life for these children. 
A copy of this book will be in my personal library so that when my granddaughter is a couple of years older, I can let her read it to see that there is a possibility of light at the end of the road.
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