Book Review – Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Publish Date: September 26, 2017
# of Pages: 340
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Buy it*: Amazon


(From Goodreads) 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.


Rating (1-10, 10 is exceptional)
Quality of Writing – 7
Pace – 8
Plot Development – 9
Ending – 10
Characters – 9
Enjoyability – 10
Ease of Reading – 10

Overall Rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman is a powerful story of emotional neglect, social anxiety, and a girl who learns how to stand on her own two feet.

I absolutely loved this novel. The story is simple but enchanting and the imagery used in Kiko’s art is breathtaking. The book is well-written and fast-paced–I had a hard time putting it down.

The novel follows Kiko as she blossoms into an independent woman. At the beginning of the book, she’s withdrawn and social anxiety dictates much her activities. Once she escapes the confining walls of her mother’s home, she learns that she can be her own person. She doesn’t need a crutch in life–she only needs herself.

I like how the story was written and how parts of the story are told through Kiko’s art. This was a unique perspective and I enjoyed the vision and emotions behind Kiko’s drawings and paintings.

Throughout the book, Kiko’s mother is front and center. I cringed every time Kiko’s mother talked. Kiko’s mother is a soul-sucking void, and it was painful at times to read. The way Kiko interacts with her mother differs at the beginning of the book and at the end, and it was inspiring to witness this progression.

The ending of the book was, simply put, awesome. By the end of the book, I wanted to hug Kiko and give her a high five. She is the picture of empowerment, and she rose above her family’s failings with grace and dignity.

The characters in the story are thoughtfully crafted. I connected with Kiko immediately and loved getting to know her throughout the book. Kiko’s mother is the perfect antagonist. She’s wretched and selfish, but you can’t help feel some pity for her–what happened in her life to make her the way she is? Jamie is a delightful friend and love interest. I liked that the love interest was a secondary theme in the book and didn’t overpower the story. Hiroshi is a wonderful mentor–I wish I had someone like him in my life. Even the characters with smaller parts, like Kiko’s brothers, were well-written and added to the story.

If you haven’t read this book already, add it to your TBR shelf! I checked this book out from the library, but I plan on getting my own copy. It’s more than shelf-worthy!


“You know, if someone is going to be mad at you just because you didn’t let them have their way, you’re better off without them.”

“We all have to dream our own dreams. We only get one life–live it for yourself, not anyone else. Because when you’re on your deathbed, you’re going to be wishing you had. When everyone else is on theirs, I guarantee they aren’t going to be thinking about your life.”

Let’s Talk!

Have you read Starfish? What did you think about Kiko’s character? What did you think about Kiko’s mother?

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20 thoughts on “Book Review – Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

  1. I came to fangirl about the photo again! haha
    I love the cover of this book, and I have heard so many good things about it! and I see it got to the final of the awards! So, that adds some points for me XD

    Great review! Thank you very much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just saw that the author is doing a convention near me soon, so I bought a copy based on that and the synopsis. I’m totally loving it. I think there’s some really deep issues which are explored very well. And it’s nice to read something you can relate to, even if it’s only on some levels. Thanks for the review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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