A William C. Morris Award Finalist
A New York Public Library Best Book for Teens of 2017
A Junior Library Guild Selection
“An empowering novel that will speak to many mixed-race teens.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“One of the most compelling reads of the year.” —Paste Magazine
“This book is a gem.” —BookRiot
A half-Japanese teen grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school in this “stunningly beautiful, highly nuanced debut” (Booklist, starred review).
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.
From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.
Graduating from high school and attending Prism Art School in New York City is the only thing keeping half-Japanese, half-white Kiko Himura going. Her Asian features and roots have made her feel like an outsider in her community, and her low self-esteem stems from the cruelty she endures from her distant and emotionally abusive mother. After Kiko reconnects with her childhood friend Jamie, gets rejected by Prism, and faces the return of her sexually abusive uncle, she opts to drive to California with Jamie to check out art schools. There, she meets artist Hiroshi Matsumoto, who recognizes Kiko's talent and mentors her. In an empowering novel that will speak to many mixed-race teens, debut author Bowman has created a cast of realistically complex and conflicted characters. She elegantly channels Kiko's anxieties, and each chapter ends profoundly with a description of her drawings that reflects her growth, setbacks, or newfound understanding ("I draw the sun teaching the moon how to shine"). Through art, Kiko gains a voice and finally understands that she is worthy, desirable, and talented. Ages 12 up.)
So devastatingly personal
The second I read this book I felt like crying; it made me tear up. At first, I could only summarize it as self-wallow and pity. Once I kept reading though, I could see the main character, Kiko grow and become a more independent, slightly more confident person. I respect this book so much and I’m so glad I found it in my library. I would recommend this to anyone. My favorite thing about Starfish are the little notes at the end of almost every chapter about what Kiko was drawing- absolutely stupendous. I’m still reading the book (I’m almost done) and I can’t wait to read it over and over.