Book Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

[First posted on Goodreads on 12/8/17]

Post updated with graphic on 6/14/18 🙂

Trigger warnings (for the book): sexual abuse, emotional abuse, suicide attempt, racism


Five stars! 😍




I literally started reading this book yesterday and finished it today. It was that good. I’m still in awe and crying about how amazing this book was. :’)

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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.


Page Break


I’ve never related SO much to a fictional character in my life! But this is it, folks. Kiko Himura. Main character of Starfish. She’s half-white and half-Asian (Japanese). She suffers from social anxiety and family problems (specifically her narcissistic and emotionally abusive mother). Although I do not have anxiety and family problems as bad as Kiko, I could still relate A LOT to her feelings and struggles. Whenever I’m out in public, I’m always nervous about and extremely aware of how I’m acting and how I look to other people. I feel anxious that I’m not doing the right thing. I care so much about what other people think of me, at the expense of my own feelings, even though I know I shouldn’t do that to myself. Akemi Dawn Bowman portrayed Kiko’s social anxiety so well in this book. I felt exactly as she did at the beginning, and I was so happy for her as she grew stronger and happier throughout the book. I could also relate to Kiko in that she wasn’t really close with her brothers at all. Her family was broken, and I can understand why.

Part of the reason I love this book is definitely because of how much I could relate to Kiko. Not only could I understand her social anxieties, I could understand her feeling of not belonging because of her Japanese culture. I’m Asian myself, living in the United States. There have been several occasions where I have felt out of place, left out, like I don’t belong. I don’t feel like I completely belong in American culture or in my Chinese culture. Sometimes I feel like I’m “too Chinese” and other times I feel “too American.” Likewise, in Starfish, Kiko’s mom further reinforced Kiko’s feelings of not belonging; her mom was extremely racist against the Japanese and Asians in general. Her mom was just absolutely toxic to her. I sympathized with Kiko so much on that part, because I can’t imagine having your own family, your own mother, being against half of who you are.


I loved the part on page 330 when Kiko finally stood up to her mother and said EXACTLY what she wanted to say! I was so happy; I literally started cheering. 😀


Also, I love Hiroshi Matsumoto. He is such a wonderful and amazing character. That is all. 🙂

This book was so emotional and so good. I can’t recommend this book enough. Amazing, three-dimensional characters, beautiful writing, and more. This book will forever be one of my favorites. ❤


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8 thoughts on “Book Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

  1. Hey – I’m always, always, always on the lookout for books about anxiety. Thanks for writing about this + bringing it to my attention

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, oh my gosh, thank you so much, May! That really means a lot coming from you; you’re one of my favorite bloggers! ❤ And yes, I completely agree, this book has great Asian representation and I'm really happy to hear that it's one of your favorites as well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a beautiful review, I loved reading it – and I am so, so happy you loved this book so much.It’s one of my most anticipated reads and I haven’t got the chance to read it just yet, but I can’t wait for the moment I finally do, I’m certain I will love it! 😀 <33

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for another lovely comment! As I said before, it truly means a lot to me. 💗 I’m glad it’s been on your TBR! I’m so excited for you to read it, and I hope you’ll like it as much as I did! The anxiety and Asian representation in Starfish was really one of the best I’ve ever seen in a book. ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m so glad to hear that – I only heard amazing things about the rep, too and I love a great anxiety rep. I hope I can order it soon, so I can let you know how I feel about it 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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