eARC REVIEW: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

starfishTitle: Starfish

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health

Format: eBook

Page Count: 352

Release Date: September 26, 2017


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.


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way effects my overall rating of this book.

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.

As an extra, I’ll be linking a few reviews from some Asian bloggers I follow because I feel like you should read their reviews too, to see how it was for them to read this book:

Aila – Happy Indulgence

May – Forever and Everly

Ilsa – A Whisper of Ink

Please let me know of any other Asian reviewers that have read this book and have a review up because I’d love to read them!

Purchase This Book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository

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11 thoughts on “eARC REVIEW: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

  1. IIIII LOOOOOVE THIIIIIS BOOOOK. And yes yes yes to this review!! It was beautifull written and captured my feelings EXACTLY. I just related so hard to this book and Kiko and just… UGH. BEAUTIFUL. And yes, her character development was beautiful and I’m glad she put herself before her relationship!! (Also thank you so much for putting my review up there! My friend Julianna @ Blots of Ink and Words did a review on Starfish, and she’s Asian as well. 😉)


  2. I LOVE STARFISH TOO! I ACTUALLY HATE THE MUM WITH A PASSION. She’s practically racist to her own children and just UGH. NOOO. EVERYTHING ABOUT HER WAS HORRIBLE.And the part at the end when she said she’s going to get therapy? I THOUGHT SHE FINALLY CHANGED!? BUT NOOO, she wanted to see if something happened to her when she was younger. You are making Kiko’s sexual abuse about YOU. SOrry no, go die please.But like I love that Kiko became a strong character. She learned about the important messages of being beautiful, being bi-racial. She put her relationship aside for loving herself and just YES?! AGH I WILL ALWAYS LOVE THIS BOOK. I hope this will be like the next THUG?

    (Also, okay?? this is awkward. please don’t mind me. But I’m an Asian blogger and my latest post was my Starfish review and..you know what I’ll just go now.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HER MOTHER MADE ME SO ANGRY! I THOUGHT SHE HAD CHANGED TOO BUT SHE JUST GOT MORE AWFUL! Oh! I didn’t know you were an Asian blogger!! I definitely would’ve mentioned you if I had known! I’ll add you to the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This book was already on my radar, but your review (and the others you linked) made me add it to my goodreads! I’m definitely picking this up, asap. Sounds like exactly the kind of thing I would have wanted to read as a half asian and socially anxious teenager (and 20-something ;P).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I want to read this. Aside from the fact that our main character is asian, i’m really drawn to reading books like this. Great review hun!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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