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Starfish Review

29456598Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Published: April 5th 2018 By Ink Road

Rating: XXXXX

“Beauty isn’t a single thing. Beauty is dreaming一it’s different for everyone, and there are so many versions of it that you mostly have no control over how you see it”
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.

This book has a gorgeous cover. That was my first thought when I saw Starfish on NetGalley a little while back, I had a quick glance at it, realised it was contemporary and I already had a mound of books to get through and moved on. A month or so later I came across the author on Twitter and I thought she was (and still is) lovely and that I would share her promoting posts etc because although this book wasn’t for me I wanted it to do well. A few weeks before it’s release Zoe from NoSaferPlace posted a quote from the book about anxiety at a party and it resonated so much with me that I immediately went back to NetGalley and requested it. My request was approved and I devoured this book over the course of a few days and I think it may be the most important book I have ever read.
This book touches on so many subjects, mental health, emotional and sexual abuse, divorce, beauty ideals, racial discrimination, family issues, suicide and the terrifying feeling that you have no idea what to do with your life when things don’t go how planned. I honestly don’t know how to describe the emotion this incredible book is filled with, it manages to somehow be so tender and painfully raw at the same time. Kiko is a character I think a lot of young people (and like myself, not so young) can relate to today for one reason or another and she’s  such an easier character to empathise with because of that.
The writing is a joy to read, it feels like Akemi seems to be able to pluck these emotions right out of our souls and paint them onto the page in the form of words. I laughed, I cried, I was devastated, shocked and proud throughout this book, it completely sucked me in and I was there right along side Kiko watching her learn and grow and I felt like I was learning and growing too. Kiko is a great example of when we know we’re doing something that is detrimental to our health or isn’t good for us but we can’t stop because we rely on it and watching her learn to be strong and do things for herself was eye-opening and heart warming. It made me want to be a better person.
The story itself is balanced well, it doesn’t drown out the important thoughts and choices Kiko has but still keeps everything moving and interesting. There are some great twists and turns hidden away in this beautiful unassuming book with a perfect ending for a stand alone novel. There aren’t many books now days that I will reread, no matter how good they are but this feels like a book I’m going to read every once in a while to remind me of all the lessons is teaches. This has been a hard book to review because it’s one that has felt so important to me and I’ve had trouble trying to find a way to put how I feel about it into words so I’ll close with a few of my favourite quotes
“Beauty isn’t a single thing. Beauty is dreamingit’s different for everyone, and there are so many versions of it that you mostly have no control over how you see it”
“We all have to dream our own dreams. We only get one life to live—live it for yourself, not anyone else.”
“I’ve always felt like I desperately needed to say my feelings out loud – to form the words and get them out of me, because they’ve always felt like dark clouds in my head that contaminate everything around them.”
“I draw a girl without a face, drawing somebody else’s face onto her own reflection.”