Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

StarfishTitle: Starfish

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman 

Rating: ★★★★★

Release Date: September 26, 2017

I draw a girl with arms that reach up to the clouds, but all the clouds avoid her because she’s made of night and not day.

Starfish is such a beautiful story of finding yourself and finding your place in the world. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful and filled with the beauty of self discovery. We follow Kiko Hirmura as she struggles with her art, her anxiety, and painful secrets from her past. But when Kiko has the chance to tour art schools on the west coast with a childhood friend, she begins to find a courage within herself she didn’t know existed.

Things I Liked 
I LOVED the descriptions of her artwork at the end of the chapters. They were beautiful and moving and perfectly captured Kiko’s emotions. I could really connect with her as a character, because I could feel what she was feeling so clearly.

Kiko Himura is an AMAZING character. Kiko’s journey is heartbreaking and beautiful! She has such pain and insecurity that you just want to hold her hand and help her in any way you can. But she also has such strength and resilience – she wants to be the one to help herself, even when she’s scared. And that makes her one of the most courageous characters I’ve even encountered. – I just love her a lot.

Kiko experiencing Chinatown and seeing other people like her was one of the purest and most joyous things I have ever read in my life. Growing up in a rural town, Kiko’s half Japanese heritage marks her as visibly different from her classmates, but seeing her experience the wonders of her culture and seeing the beauty in herself and others like her, was inspiring.

I really liked that we see Kiko address how horrible and gross it is to refer to people as “exotic.” How she feels othered and like an object to look at, not a person to know or love. She clearly explains why this hurts her and why being seen this way feels demeaning.

I also really liked Hiroshi Matsumoto, who becomes a mentor-figure for Kiko. He was a wonderful character who was caring, inspiring, and encouraging. He lifted Kiko up and helped her grow at her own pace.

Kiko and Jamie were really cute. I loved that they were both artistic and they connect through their art. I love how supportive Jamie was, and he listened to Kiko when she talked about her struggles with her anxiety.

Things I Didn’t Like 
Kiko’s mom is the worst! She is poison and darkness suffocating everything around her. She is one of the most selfish characters I have ever encountered. She didn’t have a single redeeming quality and I did not like her.

Kiko’s family life just made me so sad. Her mother was horrid, her father has a new family and wasn’t around much, and she never talked with her brothers, Taro and Shoji. It was just so heartbreaking to read about Kiko, Taro, and Shoji having to live in such a toxic environment.

Starfish is a beautiful story of a girl learning her worth. Kiko’s journey is emotionally captivating and her strength is inspiring. The story has such a hopeful feeling, despite Kiko’s pain and unhappiness, that you completely immerse yourself in her world. This was such a great book and I cannot recommend it enough.

Trigger Warning for racism, childhood sexual assault, parental emotional & verbal abuse, suicide attempt



I received a copy of the book from Simon Pulse via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

9 thoughts on “Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

  1. celestialblackrose says:

    Great review! I’ve heard so many great things so I’m happy you liked this one as well. I’m even more excited to get it ❤


  2. Kelly says:

    I have heard nothing but beautiful things about this book so far. I haven’t had the chance to pick this up just yet, but it’s on my TBR list to grab a copy as soon as I can! Not only is the cover pretty, but the synopsis sounds so good, and the prose (from the quotes I’ve seen) seems almost lyrical it’s so gorgeous. Glad to hear that you enjoyed this!

    Liked by 1 person

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