ISBN; 9781785301612. April 5th 2018. Ink Road. With thanks to Netgalley for supplying me with an eBook copy.
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 read this a little while ago, but have been struggling to put how I felt into words.
Starfish is a beautifully written important novel. It touches on some really important subjects, such as child abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, anxiety, gaslighting and more. Normally I wouldn’t be sure about reading it, but on this occasion it has been done so well. The anxiety rep in this book has been written brilliantly. I found that it describes how I (an anxious wreck all of the time) feels. I can’t say much about the biracial rep as I myself am now, but from what I observe it is covered well.
The characters are all fully fleshed out, each with their quirks and back stories that make them all so near realistic that sometimes it’s easy to forget that their fictional characters. Kiko is extremely likeable, friendly and so sweet. Her character arc was great, she went from shy and quiet, to being able to stand up for herself. As she grows, so do her relationships with different people. Born biracial (half white, half Japanese) we see Kiko go through some really awkward situations. The casual racism of her small town made me want to protect her constantly. I never realised people actually have to deal with that. It made me ashamed of some of the human race.
Kiko’s mother is an abusive (insert your word of choice here… All of the ones I’d want to use are bad)… What kind of mother doesn’t care for her own children and puts them down every single chance she gets?! And the worst bit is her “I only do it because I care”. Honestly, Akemi Dawn Bowman hit the nail on the head when it comes to manipulative mothers.
As a reader I loved Jamie. Whilst Kiko clung to him, in part because of affection and in part as a social crutch, Jamie showed constantly how much he cared. He was there through so much, and whilst he could be ignorant on occasion he made the effort to learn and change his views on things (such as anxiety). The romance between Jamie and Kiko was a slow, constant burn throughout this book. It is so worth it.
Kiko’s relationships with her brothers are pretty strained, but honestly with a mother like theirs, it’s kind of understandable. Whilst I saw one situation coming, Kiko responded perfectly and it all broke my heart if I’m completely honest.
The plot of Starfish was great. Taking you on a little bit of a rollercoaster rude of emotions, it shows you that sometimes the ‘love’ you’re shown is not the love you need to thrive. I am glad Kiko comes to understand that what her mother calls love is not, and that blood relatives aren’t always the family you need. The writing style has such a gorgeous flow to it, I clicked with it immediately and flew through the book.
I loved that at the end of almost every chapter, we got the description of a piece of art Kiko created and I would love to see them in person.
Also, I cannot neglect to talk about how stunning the cover is for this book. The choices made in creating this cover were spot on. It represents the book perfectly, even if at first glance it might not make sense. The colour chosen was great and I just, love the whole look so much.
On a personal note, this book allowed me to understand and accept the way my mother is, and how strained our relationship is. I grew as a person thanks to this book and to me, that is really important. Whilst I, like Kiko, will always crave my mother’s approval (what kid doesn’t?), Starfish has shown me that I don’t necessarily need it to be happy in my day to day life.
This book is easily 5 out of 5 stars for me.