Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.
Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.
After how much I loved STARFISH, I knew that Bowman wouldn’t disappoint in her sophomore novel, SUMMER BIRD BLUE. This novel follows Rumi in the aftermath of her sister Lea’s death. She stays with her aunt in Hawaii and meets Kai, a surfer boy next door, and Mr. Watanabe, her other neighbor. With their help, Rumi finishes a song that she and her sister were going to write before Lea’s death and learns to forgive and grieve.
SUMMER BIRD BLUE is absolutely astonishing and beautiful. Rumi is such a relateable character, and I loved reading from her perspective. Her emotions were so genuine and authentic, proving Bowman to be an absolutely stellar author in depicting pain and grief, but also music and beauty.
I also adored the representation in this novel – Rumi is asexual and also may be on the aromantic spectrum, and the majority of characters in this novel are POC – most of the biracial. It’s so amazing to see all kinds of diversity and a positive representation of them, no less. Kai is one of my favorite characters, and I loved the way that Rumi and her mother were able to reconcile and decide to move forward together with therapy.
Overall, SUMMER BIRD BLUE is an exceptional piece of art. Akemi Dawn Bowman has fortified her position on my favorite authors list, and I hope you’ll decide to pick this book up as well. You won’t regret it.
Thank you to the publisher for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Alice is an 19 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.