A half-Japanese teen grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school in this debut novel.
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 picked up Starfish when I had the weekend off work, thinking to get ahead in my blog tour reading. For two afternoons I was completely immersed in this emotional roller coaster of a book. It’s a beautifully written book and was a joy to read. If you haven’t added Starfish to your wish list yet, you absolutely have to because I’m already calling this as one of the best books of the year.
The thing I loved most about Starfish has to be Kiko and the amount of depth she had. She was an excellently written character and one that I could probably write about for days. I absolutely loved her and I became attached so quickly to this beautiful protagonist. The representation of anxiety in this book is completely spot on, and I loved watching Kiko as she grows and develops as a character. Starfish is sweet and sad in equal measure and I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.
There is of course a romance aspect to the story, but I really enjoyed that it was a slow building relationship one that was well thought out and developed, it definitely added another layer to the story and made the characters feel more realistic. Jamie too is an excellently portrayed character, he’s sweet and determined and just the nicest character ever.
This book deals with so many more themes and topics beyond anxiety. I won’t say too much because I wouldn’t want to spoil this beautiful book for anyone but the story deals with trauma during childhood, dealing with a difficult home life as well as what it’s like to be bi-racial. This quiet, subtle book is all about finding yourself and creating an identity, and it’s the kind of book that stays with you long after you’re finished reading. It’s an absolutely stunning debut (with one of the most gorgeous covers I have ever seen!) and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Akemi writes next.