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.
Trigger warnings for emotional abuse, sexual abuse, victim-blaming, sexual assault
Wow. I finished this in the late hours of the night, and I still can’t stop thinking about this gem. I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC of this gorgeous debut, and I was blown away – this book was everything I didn’t know I wanted and then some.
STARFISH follows Kiko, a half-Japanese, half-white artist, who lives with her emotionally abusive mother and two younger brothers. She doesn’t get into Prism, her dream school, and her abusive uncle moves back in, so she heads towards California to apply for other art schools and finds solace with her childhood friend, Jamie. The plot was incredibly moving, and I couldn’t stop reading – Kiko’s emotions were so palpable and her struggles felt so realistic.
I adored Kiko and Jamie – it’s a friend-to-lover trope, which I found to be done wonderfully well. Jamie was so patient and supportive with Kiko and her anxiety, and my heart feels so full because of these two. The romance was simply a part of the novel, and not a central focus of Kiko’s story, which I really appreciated.
“I don’t have to be white to be beautiful. I don’t have to be Asian to be beautiful. Because beauty doesn’t come in one mold.”
Kiko’s heritage is something of which she never felt truly part due to her emotionally abusive mother, but throughout the novel, she begins to find herself in her art, her tutor, herself. Her evolution from someone who didn’t find herself beautiful because she was Asian in a predominantly white school to someone who becomes more independent from her mother and understanding of her own needs was stellar.
Overall, I can’t express how much I adored this book. Akemi Dawn Bowman crafts a wonderfully heart-breaking and emotional rollercoaster that I’ll reread for years to come. She’s made her mark as one of my favorite authors, and I’m beyond excited for her next work.
Quotes from the ARC are subject to change. Thank you to Simon and Akemi for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Alice is an 18 year old college student who loves the oxford comma, television shows, and the company of dogs. She finds writing in the third person odd yet enjoyable. You can find her scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, and forever organizing her shelves on Goodreads.