A half-Japanese teen grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school in this debut novel.
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.
I was just blown away by this. Bowman just writes the most amazing introspective books that make you re-examine how you see the world.
Starfish is an extraordinary tale of creativity and fear and abuse and love. Kiko is scared of everyone but her art, and seeing her realise her self worth through her art is honestly just so beautiful.
The story of her abuse is two fold – the growing knowledge that her uncle is a huge creep comes through the book, but so does the knowledge that her mum is selfish and dreadful. Watching Kiko continue to want her love is so difficult, even if it is understandable. It broke me into tiny pieces.
I love how it comes together, and that Kiko learns to prioritise herself and respect her mental health. Despite that not really being discussed, that’s what she does and it’s lovely.
4.5 stars. Stunning.
Buy Starfish from Amazon UK.