Book Reviews · Contemporary Fiction · Young Adult

Starfish – Review

Hello again, Taylor here. You might have forgotten me because I’ve been MIA here at SABR but thanks to my girl Kaylie for taking the reins while I was busy adulting.

Moving sucks.

Buying a house is stressful.

Good books to the rescue!

If y’all haven’t noticed yet, I like to listen to book podcasts. Liberty Hardy on All The Books! always gives great recs for new releases. A few weeks ago she talked about Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman. Now…as soon as she started talking, I knew I had to have it. This book review isn’t the easiest for me to write, just like this book wasn’t the easiest to read. ATTENTION: TMI AHEAD. PROCEED WITH CAUTION. *deep goes* I don’t have a great relationship with my mother. We rarely see eye to eye and we have never been close, but even less so in the past 10 years. It has taken me a lot of life experiences and therapy and years to realize that it is ok to not be best friends with your mom. Sometimes in life you realize that you’ve changed your way of thinking and its time to take care of yourself, mentally and emotionally, and not everyone in your life is going to contribute to a healthier you. There are boundaries to be set. And that’s ok. Thank the good Lord above I have a wonderful husband who has an amazing family and they have taken me in and accepted me as one of their own. #blessed.

Ok now that I’ve said way more than I probably should have (who am I kidding, I’m an open book all the time) lets get to the review!

BB11B421-560B-419E-AD86-AC466C2A0FE9This book gave me entirely too many emotions. Like, all.the.feels. So intense. It is an absolute wonderful portrayal of social anxiety and mental illness and SO well written. The conversation was a little sparse at times but overall, this book was just amazing. It was realistic and hard and painful and meaningful and powerful and special and uplifting. And the cover? What a beaut! Seriously, favorite cover of 2017 right here.

So Kiko, she’s half Asian, half Caucasian. Her parents are divorced and she lives with her white mom and younger brother, while her older brother is away at college. Dad lives with his new wife and newborn twins, living a fairy tale life. Kiko lives in Hell. Her mom has SERIOUS issues. She’s racist and emotionally abusive and narcissistic and I’m sure my therapist could diagnose her, but….she’s not a real person and I keep forgetting that. (She felt real.) Anyways, point is, her mom sucks and she has really contributed to Kiko’s terrible self-esteem and anxiety. (This is the part that really tore my heart out and made me cry. Kiko, if you were real, I would tell you that there’s a whole great big world out there and you are beautiful and there is so much more to you than what your mom sees and how she makes you feel. Cut that poison out, girl. You are amazing and talented and you will be loved how you deserve. You are more than your mother.)

“What I want is for the hurt to stop. I want a mother who thinks more of me than she does. Who recognizes that I’m a better person than the version of me she has in her head. I just want her to know me, and be interested in me, and care about me without it being because she thinks she’s supposed to.”

Kiko’s escape is to paint and she has placed all her eggs in the Prism Art School basket. This is her breakout plan from her small world in Nebraska. When Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, everything crumbles around her. She doesn’t have other options and living with her mother and working at the bookstore…well, this isn’t the plan either. To make things worse, her mother lets Uncle Max move into their home. We don’t know exactly what Max’s story is (yet) but we know he’s a creep. There was an incident when Kiko was younger (not to give anything away, but let’s just say she was 7 years old and he was doing something that’d be creepy even if she wasn’t that young) but her psychotic mother doesn’t believe her.

“..but some people are just starfish-they need everyone to fill the roles that they assign. They need the world to sit around them, pointing at them and validating their feelings. But you can’t spend your life trying to make a starfish happy, because no matter what you do, it will never be enough. They will always find a way to make themselves the center of attention, because it’s the only way they know how to live.”

Enter Jamie. Kiko and Jamie were neighbors and best friends when they were younger. When his family moved away they lost touch, until they see each other at a party and they reconnect. Jamie convinces Kiko to visit California and see what the art school situation is like there. Once she’s away from her insane family situation, Kiko sees that there is so much more to life than what she’s experienced so far. Her journey to self-discovery is so empowering and touching, I just wish that every teenager with self-image issues could read this book.

Kiko’s friendship with Jamie and Emory are also the kinds of friendships that make you thankful for the people in your life who just….they get it. Social anxiety is terrible and can be embarrassing and frustrating and these social butterflies might not always understand it, but the important thing is that they protect you and support you and make you not feel so alone. (Have I mentioned how much I loved this book yet?!)


Essentially, if you haven’t gathered it yet, this book is just so good. So so good. Sometimes words fail and I just want to say, “Hey, this book was great, like really really great. Read it.”




Akemi Dawn Bowman is the author of Starfish (Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster) and Summer Bird Blue (Fall 2018). She’s a proud Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from UNLV. Originally from Las Vegas, she currently lives in England with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix. She is represented by Penny Moore of Empire Literary.



Please let me know if you read this book so we can chat! It might not reek havoc on everyone the way it did me, but I hope you love it as much as I do!

k, bye!


2 thoughts on “Starfish – Review

  1. You should definitely check it out. I related to Kiko in a lot of ways-there aren’t a lot of stories out there abt the type of parents who don’t get how to “parent” in the OTHER ways (support, love, engage) so this was refreshing and important!

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