Review: Starfish – by Akemi Dawn Bowman



Title: Starfish
Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Publisher: Ink Road
Format: E-ARC via Netgalley
Publication Date: 5th April 2018
Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon UK – Waterstones – Book Depository


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 uncorrected advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. This has not influenced my opinions, or the content of this review in any way.

Trigger/Content Warnings

Child Sexual Abuse, Abusive Parent, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Social Anxiety, Depression, Attempted Suicide

My Thoughts

Starfish is a heart-wrenching beautiful book that drew me in and held my attention to the very last page. I became so absorbed in this story that I couldn’t go to sleep until I had finished the book, mostly because my heart was pounding. That should give you a pretty good idea of just how invested I was in Kiko’s story.

Kiko is a really well-developed, and well written main character. I always felt like I understood her thought process, and I feel like her social anxiety was really well written. I really liked the “What I wanted to say” “What I actually said” sections, that I felt were super insightful and really related to – I regularly hold back on things I wish I was brave enough to say. Her story and situation is heartbreaking, and at times difficult to read. With both abusive and neglectful family members impacting her life, it’s immpossible not to feel for her.

There is a romance in this story, that slowly builds between Kiko and a childhood friend who has recently returned to her life. I feel like this book carefully toes the line when it comes to the harmful trope of romance fixing mental illness. It is arguable that to an extent she relies on him a lot, but I feel like he becomes part of a support network rather than her everything.

I loved the way this story was written, with stunning descriptions that really sparked my imagination. All the descriptions of Kiko’s art actually made me want to start painting again, which I haven’t really done in years. All in all, this book was gripping, emotional, dark, emotional and hopeful. I really liked it, and will definitely be reading future books by this author.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Starfish – by Akemi Dawn Bowman

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