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Summer Bird Blue

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Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

Aching, powerful, and unflinchingly honest, Summer Bird Blue explores big truths about insurmountable grief, unconditional love, and how to forgive even when it feels impossible.

375 pages, Hardcover

First published September 11, 2018

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About the author

Akemi Dawn Bowman

16 books1,345 followers
Akemi Dawn Bowman is a critically-acclaimed author who writes across genres. Her novels have received multiple accolades and award nominations, and her debut novel, STARFISH, was a William C. Morris Award Finalist. She has a BA in social sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and currently lives in Scotland with her family. She overthinks everything, including this bio. You can find Akemi on Instagram @AkemiDawnBowman.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,143 reviews
Profile Image for Alice Oseman.
Author 51 books76.6k followers
August 8, 2018
This is a crucial book on loss. Raw, real, and deeply hopeful, SUMMER BIRD BLUE follows Rumi Seto on her path to healing in idyllic Hawaii with the help of a grumpy old man and a bubbly new friend. This book has solidly secured Akemi as one of my favourite contemporary YA authors - I will read anything Akemi Dawn Bowman writes.

The stand-out element of this book for me was the aro-ace representation in Rumi, the likes of which I have never seen before (the only ace rep I've found in contemporary YA has tended to be romantic ace, and said character always ends up in a relationship). Much of Rumi's journey in SUMMER BIRD BLUE explores her discovering and accepting her aro-ace identity, and she does NOT end up in a relationship by the end. She made me feel strongly seen in a way I don't think I've ever felt before in a book, and NORMAL too. It didn't feel contrived at all, it felt incredibly normal and valid. I deeply admire and respect Akemi for making this choice, because it would have been SO easy to let Rumi end up in a relationship with Kai. But it makes a far more interesting book because she doesn't! I hope more authors can follow suit in exploring the struggles faced by aro-ace people, and I hope publishers will continue to be more willing to publish books about the intricacies and struggles of lesser-understood queer identities like this.
Profile Image for daph pink ♡ .
947 reviews2,711 followers
April 30, 2022
“Grief is a monster - not everyone gets out alive, and those who do might only survive in pieces. But it's a monster that can be conquered, with time.”

Summer Bird Blue is about Rumi, who goes to live with her aunt in Hawaii, in order to give her mom the space and time she needs to process the death of Rumi’s younger sister, Lea. Rumi struggles to function after the loss of her sister. She couldn't write and play the music that once played a central role in her life. With the help of her aunt’s love and support and the help of the boy next door, Kai, and an elderly neighbor, Mr. Watanabe, Rumi starts to find her way back to herself.

It's a heavy novel, full of anger, grief and raw pain for someone like me who have dealt with such kind of loss. It's poignant, inspiring , destructive and everything you can demand from a y/a book. The writing style,plot, character development made for the embodiment of Rumi’s emotions, everything was rightly curated.The writing was beautiful and lyrical, flowing from page to my heart.

"Your sexuality -- and how you identify -- is nobody else's business. You can change your mind, or not change your mind. Those labels exist for you, and not so that everyone else can try to force you into a box. Especially if that box is their close-minded idea of fucking normal."

��� Rumi - Biracial MC , questioning aromatic asexual.

"I don't know how to hang on to someone who doesn't exist in the same world as me.”

I read several 2/3 star reviews and people complaint about overdramatising Rumi's grief and pain. Seriously. I agree she isn’t always likeable but she is always real and relatable. I agree she was conflicted for the majority of the novel, having mood swings of anger and hope, but there was no moment where I felt it was overwritten. I agree It felt like every chapter Rumi was mentioning that her sister is dead and it got a bit repetitive to keep hearing it.
But over the course of the book Rumi grows into a more compassionate and understanding person who can very well manage her emotions. Her journey is simply beautiful.

I also liked that there is a lot about friendship and what that means, whether it’s setting boundaries or helping each other or sharing each others pain.I loved her friendship with Mr Watanabe – that was kinda unexpected but I adored it. And I agree I was little bored by the daily inner monologue of Rumi but as she slowly starts spending conversationless time with crusty old neighbor Watanabe listening to vinyl, and slowly allows Kai & friends to include her, the truly deep, emotional impact of the book is revealed.
I’m not sure the book actually convinced me of Kai’s crush on Rumi, but the inclusion of Rumi’s asexual orientation was something I loved and appreciated how author loved it into her personality.

Bottom line :- Overall a heartwarming and a heartbreaking. There were times when I smiled, and there were times where I wiped away a tear. A powerful and an important read.


i am not a stalker or something but if ALICE OSEMAN says this is one of her fav books here , i am so gonna read it!
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,743 reviews5,284 followers
October 9, 2019
Wow, I am so glad to finally be posting this review! I was lucky enough to receive an ARC pretty far in advance and devoured it immediately, because I loved Starfish so much, but I gotta tell you guys, this book? It blows Starfish out of the water. This was one of the most heartbreaking, gorgeous stories I have ever read, and there is so much diversity I could honestly yell about it forever.

“I don’t want to hold hands, or flirt, or… kiss. And I don’t feel like I’m somehow less whole because I don’t want to date.”

First, let’s go ahead and talk about the diverse representations in this book: Rumi, the narrator, is not only multiracial (Japanese, Hawaiian, and white), but she’s also questioning for the bulk of the book before tentatively coming out as both asexual and aromantic. Among the side characters, everyone is either Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Samoan, Filipino, black, or some combination of the above. The Hawaiian locals also primarily speak Hawaiian pidgin English, which added an incredible touch, especially after having learned that Akemi Dawn Bowman learned to speak it from her own father.

I don’t think I’ll ever find another person in the entire world who understands me the way Lea does. We’re the only two people in the universe who speak our language.

Second, you need to know that this is a book almost solely dedicated to processing grief and the loss of a loved one. If you cry at books ever, you should probably have tissues on hand. I was literally sobbing through so many chapters. I don’t have a sibling and don’t know what losing one feels like, but Rumi’s pain is so tangible. As a mother, my heart also broke so much for Rumi’s mother and the obvious struggles she was going through, especially once she was able to talk to Rumi about what had happened and how it was affecting her mental health.

Grief is a monster—not everyone gets out alive, and those who do might only survive in pieces.

Another thing Summer Bird Blue does so well is its depiction of how trauma affects our mental health, and how important it is to seek help and to not vilify those who need assistance getting through difficult times. Rumi spends much of the book determined to stay in this dark place she’s been sent to by her sister’s death, but we get to watch her learn that it’s necessary to let people in and accept help in healing. On top of that, these side characters are incredible—they all feel so three-dimensional and wonderful, and I would honestly read companion novels about at least six of them.

She’s a shell. A ghost. I think her soul climbed into the coffin with Lea. I wish mine had done the same.

One thing that I hope everyone will keep in mind while reading Summer Bird Blue as it releases, is that Rumi does come across as a very coldhearted, callous character for much of the book, but she is human and she is grieving. She has lost not only her sister and best friend in the world, but she feels abandoned by her mother as well, and everything has essentially combined to utterly break her by the time she reaches Hawaii’s shores.

Music used to be life and hope and everything happy. Now it’s full of ghosts.

I think Rumi’s characterization is a poignant reminder that grief can destroy us all in different ways, but just because we lash out doesn’t mean we are bad people—sometimes it just means we don’t have the proper tools to cope with what has happened to us. The most beautiful aspect of her negative behavior, though, is how it gives the people in her life this opportunity to show how important it is, whenever possible, to stay by her side—they don’t give up on her, but offer her their strength and support as much as they can, no differently than any of us would do for our own loved ones.

What if music doesn’t belong to me anymore, the way Lea doesn’t belong to this world?

I know I’m rambling, and this review has gone on way too long, but this book just meant so much to me and it is imperative that I express to you how badly I want to see it, and Akemi Dawn Bowman’s writing career in general, succeed in every way possible. Please, do yourself a favor: pick up a copy of this book. Pre-order it, ask your library to stock it for you, whatever works—you won’t regret it.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Simon Pulse for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

You can find this review and more on my blog, or you can follow me on twitter, bookstagram, or facebook!


Buddy read with the ever lovable May! 💖
Profile Image for elena ❀.
303 reviews3,159 followers
August 1, 2021
Grief is a monster—not everyone gets out alive, and those who do might only survive in pieces. But it’s a monster that can be conquered, with time.

I don’t think I will ever be able to fully describe how this book made me feel.

If you know me well, you know 5 stars are tricky for me, but I can’t deny the fact that Summer Bird Blue ticked off all the boxes, showing me an emotional and hopeful journey of a girl who gives herself a second chance at living. And let me tell you that I loved everything about it.

Summer Bird Blue follows Rumi Seto as she mourns and grieves the death of her little sister, Lea, who died in a car accident. Lea was Rumi’s best friend, her whole life, her music partner, and the person Rumi loved the most. After her loss, Rumi’s mother sends her to Hawaii to stay with her Aunt, Aunty Ani, so her mother can have space and time to grieve. Throughout her stay in Hawaii, Rumi finds herself experiencing some of the most challenging emotions and feelings of her life. Still, with the help of Kai, her teenage neighbor, Mr. Watanabe, her 80-year-old neighbor, her aunt’s efforts to help her, and some of Kai’s friends, Rumi finds her voice again as she struggles to come into acceptance that she will have to continue moving forward without her sister at her side.

After reading and thoroughly enjoying Starfish by this author in 2018 and hearing about this a little after, I was very excited to read it after hearing it had some asexual/aro representation. While this is not as lyrical and poetic as Starfish, I firmly believe this sophomore novel had a more vital message execution. This was one of the most emotionally devastating books I’ve ever read.

“You can’t rush creativity. It’s like the rain. You wait and wait and wait, and when it finally comes, it soaks the earth and revives all the plants,” I say.

Like Starfish, Akemi Dawn Bowman adds in a lot of diverse representation to Summer Bird Blue. Rumi, for starters, is half Japanese and half Hawaiian from her mother’s side and white (Irish) from her father's side. Hawaiian Pidgin is the primary language in the story. This language addition was fascinating because of how uncommon it is to find ethnic languages featured in books. I loved how this was added instead of translated, and it made it even more special after knowing Bowman comes from a Hawaiian background and was born and raised hearing this language. Her dad even helped her write this story by reading three early drafts to make it as authentic as possible, according to this blog tour post written by Kate from Reading Through Infinity. I love when authors write their own experiences, whether it’s about education, languages, cultures, etc. because of the personality it adds. Not only that, but some of Rumi’s friends are also primarily “half something,” as Hannah put it. Gareth is half Filipino and half Samoan, Kai is half Japanese and half Korean, and Hannah is half Japanese and half Black. While we don’t know much about these kids’ backgrounds entirely, I appreciated how Akemi is always someone to include diversity as a primary theme in her books and how she does it without stereotypes or categorizing people.

Adding on to that, the other rep would be the questioning Rumi goes through throughout most of the book, in which she concludes that she falls under both the asexual and aromantic spectrum. Something else I appreciated is the message about labels and how unimportant they are if you’re unsure. While it is okay to label yourself as something or someone, Rumi is not sure how she would identity and/or label herself, in which her sister, family members, and friends remind her that it is okay. Again, I loved the presentation of this because of how positive it was, reminding us that it is okay to feel like you don’t “fit in” somewhere.

Rumi knows she’s “not like others,” where she doesn’t have the urge to kiss or date people, whether guys or girls, and she’s confused about why feels this way. Her questioning reminded me about myself. With the difference being that I am not aromantic, Rumi’s feelings about her asexuality resonated with me. In high school, I started questioning why I wasn't “like others” and why all my friends (or other students and kids around me) were already having their lives formed out regarding their sexual lives. I remember how I asked my friends in high school why I wasn’t feeling the need and urge to have sex at, really, any point in my life, and hearing the typical “maybe you just haven’t met the right person yet.” While it can be true, it’s more than that. I am not sex-repulsed, but I don't think about the need, want, desire, and urge to have sex. It’s not something I’m against, but it isn’t something I think about. I think it’s ridiculous when people revolve their lives around sex as if it’s the best thing ever to happen when people like me tell them we’re not interested. It’s as if they think we believe we’re missing out.

Asexuality is fluid. It does not have one definition. It does not only mean one thing and is not the same thing for every ace out there. I have a friend who is demisexual, another who is pansexual and demisexual, another who is asexual. I went most of high school identifying as asexual first after discovering what it meant, then demisexual, and now gray-ace. It’s a constant change because of how I’m still learning and questioning and wondering where I “fall under,” but like Rumi was told, it doesn’t matter if I don’t have a conclusion and identity now. It’s a process and journey of understanding myself and my feelings. It’s difficult to accept it because of how stigmatizing it still is, but it’s something many of us are learning about. Rumi’s experience felt relatable (to an extent, which is understandable). I loved seeing how her character grew to the point where she realized she was as valid as everyone else.

“Izzy’s taught me a lot about understanding how everybody is different. I guess—and not to get weird—but sexuality is fluid fo’ a lot of people. I’s different fo’ everybody, and dea’s not really a right or wrong way to be. We fall into different places on a spectrum, I guess, like different colors in a rainbow.”

The most important part of this book is the message about grief and the emotional turmoil it takes on you. It reminded me about how even though many of us may have gone through many emotional instances in our lives, we still don’t know what others are dealing with. Many people might not like Rumi for how she expresses herself. She projects her emotions and feelings into others, which are a mix of anger and sadness. She isolates herself from the world, abandons her love of music, blames herself for her sister’s death, and pushes the help her aunt and new friends try giving her. She’s cold, rude, harsh, immature, and even inconsiderate.

But that is exactly why I loved her character.

Her character felt real and raw, not hiding any of that bullshit some authors make their characters have to hide their true feelings. She’s not being too rude or too ignorant, because that is what grief and mourning makes you feel like. Personally, I feel like if anyone who thinks Rumi was being too harsh and immature, they’re not aware of the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. It’s all a cycle for Rumi, one she goes through repeatedly and in no order. Her sister’s loss has greatly affected her, but her mother also left her. She sent her to Hawaii while she dealt with the grief on her own because she needed space and needed time. Rumi is alone, sent to a completely different place with an aunt she barely knows, in where she meets new people from different backgrounds and environments. She’s forced to step out of her comfort zone and accept the reality that her sister is really gone and never coming back, but it takes her a long time to get there, and it’s a journey of loss, anger, depression, and even happiness as she comes to evaluate herself.


“Because I have to remember all the times I was horrible to her, and all the times I wasn’t. Because the more I think about it, the more I worry I was a really bad sister to her. I think I spent more time being angry and jealous and petty than I did just loving her. And I did love her—I loved her more than anyone could’ve loved her. But I don’t think I showed it enough when she was alive, and I don’t know how I’m ever going to make that up to her. So I need to know—I need to know how much I owe her. I need to know if I failed as a sister.”

It’s hard for Rumi to accept her sister is gone. While she blames herself, she also loses touch with music because she feels like it’s wrong to play without her sister. She can’t accept the fact that her sister, someone who was full of light, hope, and love, would be gone so quickly in the blink of an eye. She doesn’t accept the fact that she is still alive while her sister is gone, even though her sister was the one with hopes and dreams, the one who would make others feel welcomed, loved, and cherished. Rumi feels like she can’t move on without her, and it only becomes a dark hole that swallows her, almost causing her to drown inside.


How can someone be so unafraid of a life they don’t even want, when I’m petrified of starting the one where so many doors are still open?

As Rumi spends time with the people around her, she feels jealous and upset, mainly at Kai. Kai is carefree, always smiling without a care in the world. Rumi envies Kai’s way of thinking, and it makes her angry how Kai can give up his life without thinking about how selfish it can sound. When Kai tells her that he doesn’t mind going to the military, like his dad wants him to, even though he doesn’t want to, Rumi feels angry at this because she feels like Kai has a way in his life. She’s mad at the world for taking one of the most precious things in her life, one of her anchors, someone who carried them in their side. She's mad at her mom for leaving her alone and abandoning her, shipping her to an unknown place to live with an unknown family member. While Rumi was also grieving like her mother, she did not have the support she wished she had. She feels helpless, hopeless, lifeless, and motherless.


What if music doesn’t belong to me anymore, the way Lea doesn’t belong to this world?

The entire time, Rumi blames herself for her sister’s death and her mother’s abandonment. She wonders what would happen if she would have been the one to die and how her mother would react if Lea were alive instead. She also blames herself and wishes she were dead instead of Lea because the situation would be different, which causes Rumi to settle into a spot full of self-blame and self-isolation.


Because I’m no longer Rumi Seto, the girl who believed she’d conquer the world armed with a piano and her best friend at her side. I’ve turned into someone else—someone unstable. I’ve run out of reasons to wake up every morning. I’ve become a corrupted version of myself—a version everyone seems to think is on the brink of self-destruction.

Depression is what hurts Rumi the most. When she arrives in Hawaii, she screams, doesn’t eat, doesn’t shower, and doesn’t dare touch her music. She feels like it’s wrong to touch an instrument without her sister, and she doesn’t want to finish the song they were going to write together without her. She blames everyone else, including her mother, and wishes she could switch places with Lea. She isolates herself, lets out her emotions on other people, and reacts angrily at everyone and everything. Depression makes Rumi lose herself. The girl she once was is gone. She starts hearing and talking to her sister, having flashbacks and memories of when they were together, and wishing she could go back in time and change everything.


I can’t let my grief swallow me up anymore. I have to be here, in the right now. Alive.

It takes a long time, but Rumi finally accepts what has happened and concludes that if she continues her act, she will not be able to move on and continue walking forward. She knows she needs to forgive her mother for what she did and accept her reasonings, understands that she can’t allow herself to be lonely, and realizes that Lea would have wanted her to finish the song for them. So she starts playing the piano and guitar again, finishes her music, and gets inspired by the people she found love in. While her journey is still not over, Rumi shows strength, courage, and bravery.

Strength, for finally helping herself and accepting that it isn’t her fault. Courage, for finally stepping over her boundaries and piecing herself back together. Bravery, for acknowledging that she still needs to talk to someone, a therapist, to continue receiving the help she needs. For finding her weakness and coming to the conclusion that she was jealous. For realizing that she can’t change the past, but she can change the future and not repeat her mistakes.

Some people are meant to be forever, like Lea and me. And other people come into your life for a reason—you help each other figure shit out and come to terms with complicated feelings that you can’t process on your own.

Rumi’s character felt authentic. She made me cry and had me form a lump in my throat that was stuck there for the entire book. Her love for her sister is painfully raw, and her time in the world reminded me of how little time there is in life to appreciate it all. Yet, with the help of new people around her, she found love for herself and for the things she loves. She grew and outgrew, all while still falling down some steps, but managed to get back up. Rumi isn’t an easily forgettable character for me, and I can only thank Akemi for creating such a realistic portrayal of what it means to mourn the loss of someone who you thought of as the love of your life, someone who you thought would stick in your life forever, even if, at some point, you were ready they were going to separate themselves from you.

That is what this book is about: about getting back up and finding your voice again to use it for the time you lost.

On a final note, I really liked the memories Bowman adds. I thought they added more voice and emotion to the story and felt them to be necessary during the moments. When Rumi was in a specific event with someone, it would trigger a memory, and I thought the time differences shifted really well. The past mixed with the present developed in a powerful way and I didn't find myself confused at how it was working. Adding on to that, I appreciated the memories because of how it connected to the current present event we were witnessing. It made it easier to understand why the event was unfolding and where the reactions were coming from. Akemi managed to write so much emotion into her words and characters, all of them, and provide a visual about a series of emotions. Not only that, but I loved being able to witness how Rumi felt and why she felt that way. We're taken everywhere she goes, and we're able to see what just happened that made her feel a specific way. I appreciate how the author wrote this because it allows the reader to get into Rumi's head more.

To conclude this, I felt this book to be relatable in some ways, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Summer Bird Blue now has a special place in my heart, as well as Rumi Seto and her friends, the temporary family she found comfort in. From the imagery of Hawaii and its waters, to the music, to the sentiments, Akemi Dawn Bowman has written one of the most moving books I've come across reading.

And maybe that’s like life. You live for a moment—one single moment. And then you don’t matter. Because there are years of the past and years of the future, and we’re all simply one tiny blip in time—a surge of water waiting to leave our mark on the sand, only to have it washed away by the waves that come after us.
Profile Image for may ➹.
494 reviews2,069 followers
June 21, 2018
4.5 stars

okay. I cried. and I rarely cry over any book

Akemi always writes the most beautiful, personal, meaningful, hard-hitting stories and this is just another one of them. this one in particular means a lot to me because I have a younger sister and seeing Rumi go through the loss of her sister made me so emotional

this is truly truly beautiful and I can’t wait for all of you to read it 💙💙

(note: Rumi is mainly questioning throughout the book. at the end, she figures that she would likely identify as asexual and somewhere on the aromantic spectrum!)

// buddy read with this absolute ANGEL
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
720 reviews1,114 followers
October 20, 2019
“Of course it’s dark. Life is dark. It doesn’t care about anyone. Yours just hasn’t gone to shit yet.”


This was an emotional read, but so full of love and hope.
Rumi and her sister Leah are best friends, they both love music and plan to spend their future forming a band and making music together.
Their plans are destroyed when Leah dies in a car accident. Suddenly Rumi is lost. Why Leah? She was so much more likeable than Rumi, what was the point?

Rumi’s mother can’t cope and she sends her away to spend the Summer with her Aunt in Hawaii.
Fair warning - Rumi spends a lot of time hating on her mum. Granted, she is grieving, and so angry. But I found her attitude toward her mum really hard to stomach. Especially when

Rumi’s time in Hawaii helps her to grieve and ultimately heal. She meets such wonderful people and discovers parts of herself she hadn’t focused on before. Such as her own sexuality.

Overall, a powerful read about grief and friendship, with a fantastic set of characters. From the grumpy old neighbour, to the boy next door.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,947 followers
November 14, 2019

I strum my fingers, the familiar sound of Lea’s guitar filling the street like the scent of gardenias when I first landed in Hawaii. Mellow. Sweet. But with all the heart of an island.

I close my eyes and sing.

I woke up alone
abandoned in this space you left.
I tried to find you
and fill the hole inside my chest.
I wanted you to stay;
I tried to find a way,
and I did.
I trapped you here
with all my pain.
We became a monster
I couldn’t explain.
I needed you to stay;
I had to make you stay,
so I did.
But the sun came up
like you promised it would,
and we were living in a cage
cut off from the rest of the world.
And I knew I had to set you free;
I knew you couldn’t stay with me.
It’s time.
I know it’s time.
So I’m singing;
Good-bye, little bird,
I’ll watch you fly into the blue.
And when the summer ends
I’ll fly with you.

When I look up, Kai is smiling, the electricity turned up full force in his eyes. And I know in my heart that I’ll probably never see him again.

Some people are meant to be forever, like Lea and me. And other people come into your life for a reason-you help each other figure shit out and come to terms with complicated feelings that you can’t process your own.

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,048 reviews1,381 followers
July 11, 2019
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

“Some people are meant to be forever, like Lea and me. And other people come into your life for a reason— you help each other figure shit out and come to terms with complicated feelings that you can’t process on your own.”

🌟 I picked up this book as a recommendation by Noura for my 10 bloggers, 10 recommendations challenge. I should be honest that this is a review you may want to take with a grain of salt because I found out that as an emotional person, those sad books are kind of hard for me to read! So it is definitely a me not the book problem! I will be objective as possible here.

🌟 I read Akemi’s debut Starfish and enjoyed it more! I think I enjoyed the writing style in that one more too! Not that it was bad here but the memories were kind of abrupt and the transition was not that smooth! I also did not highlight many quotes as I did with her first book.

🌟 Rumi is the hardest kind of characters to review! She was annoying and childish and she should have been more mature. But does that mean it was bad written? Not at all! I think the author did a great job in writing a realistic kind of person that unfortunately have traits I do not like in real life! I just wanted more character development and I do not believe Rumi develops significantly till the end, she had many wonderful opportunities to do so though! I also liked the LGBT rep, maybe Rumi does not want to be labelled and that’s OK, but I kind of was irritated by the sudden changes she had when meeting the guy in the story!

🌟 The story is sad and the pacing is just right for that! I did not cry and did not feel many emotions while reading it. I saw many reviews about readers getting emotional and crying but I am kind of a cold but emotional person and this was hard for me to connect to.

🌟 Summary: Summer Bird Blue was a fairly good book that I personally could not connect to. I can’t think of something specific to improve the story. I just think it is not a perfect book for me but it is perfect for someone looking for a book about loss and grief and an Aro Ace rep!
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,297 reviews27.9k followers
September 27, 2019
This was a tragic and sad story about a teenage girl named Rumi who loses her sister Lea very suddenly in a car accident. Rumi and her sister were best friends and they often wrote songs together, and when her sister died they were in the middle of writing the song “Summer Bird Blue”. Over the summer as Rumi deals with an unimaginable amount of grief she makes it her mission to finish the song her sister would have wanted her to finish. Her Mom sends her away to Hawaii for the summer to stay with some family she hasn’t met before so she can grieve on her own, which makes her feel abandoned by her mother.

Here are some of my general thoughts I had about this book after reading:
-One of the most relatable characters of all time for me: best friends with her sister, love for songwriting and music, living in Washington state, and she’s asexual
-I really really relate to Rumi in the sense that she is very indecisive about what she wants to do with her life, and she feels so much pressure from society to want certain things like romance and a relationship. Here’s one of my favorite passages about her asexuality: ”I’ve tried to like boys. I’ve even wondered if I like girls - or both. But I don’t like anybody. I can see when people are attractive, but I don’t want to date them. I don’t want to hold hands, or flirt or kiss. But I feel like I’m supposed to feel that way.”
-The grief is described in such a raw and honest way it was kind of hard to read at times, but her thoughts also got very repetitive with her thinking: “I don’t deserve to be happy without her” and “I hate my mom for abandoning me” and “how am I ever supposed to enjoy anything in life without her” which are all normal reactions to death but as far as storytelling goes, it got extremely repetitive to me
-Also the “memory” flashback sections got very repetitive and annoying, you would be reading a chapter and then it bold letters it just says “A MEMORY” and you just get thrown into a memory, and I feel like the memories could have been written into the story more naturally, it just felt abrupt
-I love love love that this book takes place in Hawaii and I love that music is such a huge part of the story
-I love books that follow sisters and Rumi and Lea were the actual cutest and GOSH did they remind me of me and my sister sometimes, which made this book extra emotional for me
-It took me a couple days to get through this cause it was just so sad and hard to read at times, it all felt so heavy on my heart
-This was looking to be a three star book for me until those final two chapters; I fucking cried and my heart felt so full but also broken at the same time. I just felt all the feels at the end of this book and I think it ended perfectly

But wow, this was great and it was the perfect read to end the summer.
757 reviews2,349 followers
March 30, 2019
I want to cut this lump out of my throats because what the fuck, Bowman, I didn't sign up. Actually I did but HDJJDDJFJF IM SAD.

this book is amazing and bye no review IM SAD

another buddy read with my fave, Maggie because Starfish made us cry and I know for a fact this one will too. Can't wait to have my heart ripped out and stomped on. 😔✊🏼
Profile Image for Charmel.
183 reviews424 followers
February 9, 2022
I am now convinced that I should read all of Akemi Dawn Bowman's books or else I would regret life.

Once again, Akemi had made me cry. 👏

“You can’t rush creativity. It’s like the rain. You wait and wait and wait, and when it finally comes, it soaks the earth and revives all the plants.”

Summer Bird Blue is very close to my heart. It's about a girl, grieving her sister in Hawaii after her mom sent her away to her aunt. There she met her neighbors, an old grouchy man and a too care free teenage boy.

There are so many things I love in this book:

✧ First, the writing. It's beautiful. It's poignant. It's lyrical. It's one of the purest writing styles I've ever read.

✧ The anger and grief Rumi's experiencing hits so hard. It isn't overwritten, it's true and raw. Some people experience grief like that, some people can't move on easily. And just like Rumi's journey, they had to hold on for a while and wait until they start to accept and start to move on.

“Grief is a monster - not everyone gets out alive, and those who do might only survive in pieces. But it's a monster that can be conquered, with time.”

✧ The unique aro-ace representation! Self-discovery and accepting her sexuality is also an important part of Rumi's journey. Before she felt like it wasn't normal, she felt weird and strange about it. But over time, she feels valid, accepted, and normal.

(i think and realize that i identify somewhere in the ace spectrum. im still confused. i don't know if it's me or only my mind just telling me stuff, but after reading this, i think that being confused is okay. I have some time ahead of me. i dont have to know it right away.)

“An’ you know what I t’ink? I’s okay fo’ be confused, an’ i’s okay fo’ not be confused. One isn’t mo’ bettah dan da uddah, yeah? Dey both normal. Dey both okay.”
I smile. It’s okay to be confused. It’s normal.
I’m normal.

✧ This book is also diverse. Rumi is a Half-Japanese and Half-Hawaiian and she has also part Filipino, Korean, and Samoan friends.

✧ Lastly, I loved the new friendship that Rumi found. No romance, just meaningful, loving friends. And I think that's important. Just like Rumi said, "someone can be beautiful and I don’t want to have a romantic relationship with them. There are other kinds of relationships I find more important. Family. Friendships. Music, " but in my case it's; family, friendships, and books. :)

“Time isn’t replaceable, and you never know how much of it you have left.”

Okay... one last important thing I learned from this precious book is that :

Life is not permanent. Someday we'll all leave this world. And we don't even know when, we don't even know-how, and we don't even know where. Today we live and tomorrow, yk maybe we don't even know. Death lurks in the corner and it just comes. We never know how much time we have left.

So we need to live our lives today, to appreciate the things - even the smallest ones - surrounding us, and especially to cherish every moment we share with our loved ones - friends, family, or everyone.

So every second, every minute, or every hour we have, we should embrace them and be grateful for them. Life is too short to waste.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,519 reviews8,987 followers
October 20, 2021
Loved the representation of grief, friendship, and aromanticism in Summer Bird Blue. The novel follows a young woman named Remi who loses her sister Leah in a car accident. Akemi Dawn Bowman portrays Remi’s grief in a realistic and uncompromising way, ranging from her lashing out at close loved ones, distrusting newer social connections, and over time starting to heal. Remi’s messiness mirrored the messiness of grief. Toward the end of the novel I found myself getting a little emotional about the growth Remi exhibits in relation to understanding her feelings of anger and sadness.

I also appreciated how Bowman portrayed a piece of Remi’s journey in understanding her aromanticism. Remi’s initial confusion about her romantic and sexual desires, or lack thereof, felt authentic. I enjoyed her friendship with Kai a lot, as I felt that Bowman infused their relationship with a playful yet deep energy which showed the power of friendship overall, in an amatonormative society and YA book industry that prioritizes romance.

I only give this book three stars because I felt like the writing distracted me from the novel’s beautiful themes. Not like I could have done any better, and at the same time the writing came across to me as trying really hard to make a point – like, oh, here’s the scene where Remi experiences a memory about Leah’s more amiable nature, or oh, here’s a moment when Remi finds solace in music. The use of adverbs (e.g., when Remi says things “curtly”) and the dialogue, which felt occasionally exaggerated to me, made it difficult for me to fully immerse myself in the story. Still, I’d recommend the novel to those who find its premise interesting, given its raw portrayal of grief with an aromantic main character.
Profile Image for Lea (drumsofautumn).
622 reviews625 followers
August 7, 2020
Video Review

Summer Bird Blue is an intense Contemporary novel that deals with grief in a way that I have never come across before.

“Because to Lea and me, music wasn't only about sounds. Music was scenery and smells and tastes and magic, too. But it doesn't feel like magic anymore – it feels like I'm being haunted.”

At the centre of this novel is Rumi, who, after losing her sister Lea in a car accident, gets sent away to live with her aunt in Hawaii, while her mum deals with her own grief.
We follow Rumi as she tries to process this loss, feeling abandonded by her mother and trying to find her way back into writing music, which was a hobby that she shared with and deeply connects to her sister.

Before I get into my thoughts and feelings on this book, I wanna talk about the representation.
The main character, Rumi, is multiracial (Hawaiian, Japanese and white). There's a lot of biracial side- and minor characters and many of them speak Hawaii Pidgin English.

This book also features some amazing questioning rep. The way Rumi describes being unsure about her romantic and sexual orientation, about not feeling comfortable with even the idea of labels, about being so sure how she feels but becoming insecure about it when everyone tells you that's not how it's supposed to be, about being scared that you settle on a label and then you realize it doesn't quite fit or things have changed.. it all truly blew my mind. Eventually Rumi plays with both the asexual and aromantic label and she is definitely a-spec but it feels like she never quite wants to settle on any labels.

It was so very easy to relate to Rumi and I think that many people who have struggled with their identity will. As someone who has been questioning and struggling with orientation well into my twenties, this is some of the best questioning rep I have EVER read. Akemi Dawn Bowman absolutely nailed it.

“I'm not comfortable with the labels, because labels feel so final. Like I have to make up my mind right this second. Like I have to be sure of myself as everyone else seems to be.”

The writing is beautiful and fascinating in every aspect. I have never in my life seen grief described this way. The imagery, the metaphors, the similes.. it made the pain and the anger so vivid and relatable. Whether you've ever lost someone so close to you or not, Rumi's pain grabs every little bit of you and does not let go. I would almost say be careful going into this if you experienced a loss just recently. It is already a tough read as it is!

The music aspect spoke to my heart and soul and is something that I just felt a very personal connection to. I don't really have a person that connects me to music as Rumi is connected to Lea through it, but I still could really relate to so many thoughts about music, about the songwriting process and about how much music can heal but also hurt and trigger negative emotions.
The intense way Rumi feels about music and what it means to her, before and after the accident, is pouring out of these pages.

“Because music is a carnival at night, lit up by a thousand stars and bursting with luminescent colors and magical illusions.
Music is magic and lightning and fireworks.”

I loved that as an adult I could read this novel and understand Rumi's mum while still also very much understanding where Rumi's anger towards her is coming from and how justified it is. I appreciated that this was a novel, where, eventually, the two found their way back together, but I never felt like this novel was trying super hard to excuse her mum's behaviour.

Everything, every emotion Rumi had about her mother and the way she behaved during the grieving process, was valid, even after they talked and Rumi's mum gave a good explanation and it was portrayed like that too. This book does not invalidate Rumi's feelings or even the way Rumi behaved towards her mother and I feel like this is just generally something that YA, as it's mostly written by adults, often gets so wrong. It is a genre about the lives and feelings of teens and an adult's "redemption" does not necessarily need to be part of that.
And honestly, if you're an adult and you cannot handle Rumi's behaviour, I seriously think it is time for you to reflect on how you read Young Adult novels because it is NOT written for you.

“My shoulders shake like there's an earthquake in my core. Every inch of me tenses up like I'm bracing for the room to split apart – for the earthquake inside me to be real. I imagine the room exploding to bits, with pieces of drywall and tile flying in every direction and the tremor of the earthquake breaking the building in half.”

There's also so many amazing friendships featured in this novel. I always love when a book displays different kinds of friendships and how some friends are the ones you laugh with and others are ones you cry with and some are ones you have adventures with. Sometimes friends are all of those things but I just like when it is recognized in YA that a friendship with a certain person can be especially benefiting for one aspect.

Especially the way that the friendship between Kai and Rumi, a surfer boy she gets to know in Hawaii, is written, is super special. Not only does it portray a "friendship crush" incredibly well, this friendship is also taken seriously as a huge, important relationship in their lives, while being non-romantic and confined to a time and place. It is so special to read about a friendship like this. On top of that Kai has romantic feelings for Rumi and this book shows that when two people really mean something to each other, you can still work on that friendship and stay good friends, even with one person having romantic feelings. This certainly doesn't work for everyone and you have to figure things out on the long run but I loved seeing this portrayed as something that is absolutely possible!

There's also the amazing friendship Rumi has with an elderly man, Mr. Watanabe. This might have been my favourite relationship in this whole novel. I was so emotionally involved in this development and the way these people were there for each other and meant so much to each other's lives, while barely even acknowledging that. You could feel the impact these two had on each other and I thought that this was an incredibly special relationship.

“I don't know how something as beautiful and important as music could suddenly feel so empty and cruel.
Music used to be life and hope and everything happy. Now it's full of ghosts.”

Overall Summer Bird Blue is an amazing novel, that deals with loss and grief, friendship and family, hurting and healing and figuring your identity out on top of all that. It feels like Akemi Dawn Bowman lay her soul bare. To me, this is an absolutely remarkable novel.

Trigger and Content Warnings for loss of a loved one, car accident, depression, violence.

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I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Noura Khalid (theperksofbeingnoura).
522 reviews759 followers
October 5, 2018

Thank you Simon Pulse for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Akemi Dawn Bowan wrote the most beautiful and heart wrenching book I think I have ever read. When I read the synopsis I immediately requested the book. I hardly ever read contemporary books but something about this one drew me. Probably the best decision of my life.

The most amazing story ever written. I felt so many emotions when I read this book. There was sadness, anger, pain and love. A book that managed to bring all these emotions through the pages. I loved the writing style. It felt so light but also lyrical. I loved the pauses in between the story so we could visit memories from the past. I loved how contrasting the sisters were. I loved how involved the author made me feel in their lives. Learning even the simple things about their personalities.

I felt so much of Rumi’s emotions. She was often conflicted and often expressed how she felt through anger. Her emotions were all over the place but I felt the need to understand them. Her development throughout the book was definitely a favorite. She came to realize so many things. So many important things that helped her manage her feelings, understand them, and shape her understanding of herself.

Music was such a huge part of who she was. I often felt the struggle when she couldn’t get herself to play an instrument or listen to the music. I especially loved the way she managed to take herself back to it. Even if it took her a long while to figure out how to do that.

I adored all the characters in this book. Kai was such a joy to read about. He made everything so laid back. He also helped Rumi come to terms with many things, including her identity. He was always there to support and help her. I loved all the other side characters as well. Mr. Watanabe added so much to the book. He had his own losses and I felt like him and Rumi got along in their own way. I kept looking forward to the chapters that he was in. Her aunt was also so extremely patient with Rumi. She never left her side even with things got harsh.

This story was just the most wonderful thing ever. I loved how complex everything felt. I was constantly drawn to the story. It made me cry by the end of it. Heavy tears and that’s probably my favorite part. To have been able to just let go after going through all that. I’m officially on the lookout for any book by Akemi Dawn Bowman. Would recommend this book with all my heart.

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Profile Image for Ellie.
578 reviews2,198 followers
August 11, 2020
I hope Akemi Dawn Bowman has a good life and her flowers are watered and the sun shines down on her, because she’s such a gorgeous writer. This book made me both smile and cry, and it was really wonderful. It’s about grief, but it’s not harrowing to a point of overall depression, and it’s got moments of beauty that make you smile.

The whole novel actually made me very nostalgic for Hawaii - the warm air and the scent of lingering flowers and the sand between your toes and the lapping waves. The gorgeous setting Bowman built housed fabulous characters: I can’t tell you how much I adored Rumi, Kai and Mr Watanabe. Rumi I related to a lot, in so many ways (she's questioning her a-spec identity for most of the book, in a way that really echoed my experience), and her relationship with Mr Watanabe really just ... healed my soul. Kai too was an incredible human being, and so were the rest of his & Rumi’s friends and jsjdjdb I just want to protect them all.

Will certainly be recommending this one to others, as a perfect contemporary/summer read ❤️

EDIT: after some thought, rounded it up to 5 stars on goodreads

> 4.5 stars

Read for #aroaceapril 🖤
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,833 followers
February 18, 2019
book #9 done for the contemporary-a-thon under the challenge of: read the most recent contemporary book you purchased/acquired.

- rumi is an unlikable character, she is brash and blunt and i appreciated how unique her character is
- the writing is very easy to read through, it's captivating without being excessively wordy or prose-y
- the way the grief was expressed felt AUTHENTIC, it may have even hurt my heart to read sometimes
- i love the relationship between rumi and lea :(
- it takes place in hawaii and i loved loved loved seeing that glimpse into the hawaiian lifestyle and daily life
- the chapters were super fast and short blesssss
- the friendship rumi built with her old grumpy neighbour was PRECIOUS, probably my favourite part
- the ending was amazing, the way it wrapped up the story and made me all weepy but also hopefully, was really well done

- yeah rumi is an unlikable character but shes also really insensitive sometimes, she'll insult or just be really awful to people who are just trying to do their best and i know TEENAGERS ARENT PERFECT but she said some really hurtful things and :\
- there are memories/flashbacks right in the middle of chapters and i found it pretty jarring to switch so quickly

to conclude: was good book ✌️

buddy read with the lovely, taasia
Profile Image for R.F. Kuang.
Author 16 books37.6k followers
September 12, 2018
When I read Akemi Dawn Bowman’s debut novel Starfish, I was blown away by the vivid imagery, the painfully accurate portrayals of mental illness and broken families, and the intense rollercoaster of emotions that had me riveted from start to finish. Bowman’s Summer Bird Blue is even better.

Summer Bird Blue is first and foremost novel about grief, loss, and healing. Rumi and Lea Seto are sisters with a beautiful relationship; they laugh, they fight, and they bond through their music. (My own sister is three years younger than I am, just like Lea and Rumi, so it’s hard not to identify immediately with their bond.) When Lea is killed in a car accident, Rumi is utterly lost; unsure of who she is without her sister, unable to connect with her mother, and unable to move on.

Bowman’s portrayal of grief and healing is complicated, thoughtful, and avoids tropes and easy solutions at every possible turn. There’s a cute boy, but his love doesn’t “cure” Rumi, nor does their budding romance turn out the way you think it might. There’s a grouchy old neighbor with a pain of his own, but he offers no magical words of advice to heal Rumi. Rumi’s journey is difficult, messy, and happens inconsistently in spurts and fits rather than proceeding smoothly from bad to good. She’s never completely okay and she might never be. And that’s fine.

Summer Bird Blue also centers around uncertain identity. Bowman deals deftly with issues surrounding Japanese culture, diaspora, biraciality, and queerness. Rumi is a biracial, possibly ace/aro girl trying to figure out herself at possibly the worst time in her life. She’s in Hawaii for the first time, reconnecting with her family’s roots. She’s never had a California roll before. (I found it particularly fascinating to read Bowman’s transliteration of Hawaiian pidgin, a dialect which I have never before heard or read on the page.) Rumi is also tentatively exploring her sexual/romantic orientation. She’s not sure if she’s asexual and/or aromantic. She thinks she might be, but she also doesn’t know if she’ll change or mind or if she simply hasn’t found the right label for herself. She doesn’t have all the right answers, and she doesn’t need to.

Though the inciting incident of Summer Bird Blue is the death of Rumi’s sister, the novel at its heart is about Rumi’s relationship with her mother. This, too, is complex and realistically contradictory. Rumi’s mother sends her to live with her aunt in Hawaii because she needs to recover from her daughter’s death on her own. Rumi takes this as a sign of abandonment. Neither are completely right and neither are completely wrong. Summer Bird Blue draws on a conversation about mother-daughter relationships started in Starfish: that we can crave the attention of those who reject us, and that we can love and seek the love of those who hurt us.

You can check out my interview with the author here at Journey to the BEST!

Profile Image for Silvia.
32 reviews6 followers
October 25, 2018
I didn't like it, simple as that. I didn't connect with the story, especially because I hated Rumi so much... She is so angry at everything... ok girl, I get it, your world just turn upside down, but it was necessary to be that mean, selfish and asshole to everybody? And the worst is not that you can think "ok, she's grieving, she has right to be mad", NO, she was mean, angry, selfish and bad with everyone before the accident. And then she's "oh poor me, I was mean with my sister, I don't deserve to be happy, to live, it should be me that died, I hated my mom because she doesn't love me, she doesn't notice me, etc." Uggh, just no, you can't change your past, but you can change your future, realise that something is not right and furthermore WANT TO CHANGE IT, but nooo, it's easier to complain and whine and hate the rest of the world when they trying to help you.....

I didn't like the tone of the whole story, it was too much teen drama but taken to the extreme.
It could have been a beautiful story about grieving and searching for help, but at the end it was Rumi been mean, an asshole, angry at everyone and not accepting that she wasn't alone, that she wasn't the centre of the fucking damn world, because, really, how she treated her mom?? Her mom who couldn't live with herself because she felt responsible for killing one of her daughters and realised that she needed help and looked for it? Of course the mother should have talk with Rumi about how she was feeling, but it wasn't possible to her, it pained her so much, but it was all right to Rumi to not talk and share her feelings?? Ughh nope, nope.

On a side note, I loved the secondary characters, I wish we could see more of them because I think they had such potential...

Anyway, I don't understand all the love and tears this story brought to other people, for me it was bad, I wouldn't recommended to anyone.
Profile Image for Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd).
1,224 reviews257 followers
August 21, 2018
A wish is a wish after all.
Summer Bird Blue is an emotional journey of anger, grief, loss and healing. After unexpectedly losing her sister and best friend Lea, Rumi Seto is angry at the world and doesn’t know how to move on. Moving to Hawaii for the summer wasn’t part of the plan, but she’s determined to find a way to honor Lea’s memory and move on at the same time, so Rumi turns to their shared love of music and discovers a power she didn’t know existed.

Things I Liked
I loved Rumi. I loved her anger, I loved her emotions, I loved her fight. She is a force and I respect her and feel for her and I want to shower her with all the support in the world. Rumi’s grief was so physical, I could feel it. It made it so easy to invest and connect with her and everything she was going through. She had quite the journey and emotional arc and I was happy to be along for the ride.

I really loved seeing “The Memory” flashbacks of Rumi and Lea’s tumultuous history. It built their sisterly relationship in such an honest and realistic way. It showed their fights, resentments, and devotion. It really built their relationship so Lea was a meaningful presence in the book, even though she dies at the beginning of the story.

I don’t know what it is with Akemi Dawn Bowman’s stories, but she writes some of the most unexpected friendships between her protagonists and these grumpy old men/mentor figures that I fall in love with. Rumi and Mr. Watanabe's friendship brought such joy to me that I could never have enough of them listening to music or gardening.

In the midst of Rumi’s huge world shift, she’s also questioning her sexuality through much of the story. She’s conflicted about labels and needing to know what she wants right now and is deeply afraid of change. Through the story, Rumi comes to see that she’d probably identify as asexual and somewhere on the aromantic spectrum. It’s always amazing to see aro/ace characters in YA because they are severely underrepresented.

Things I Didn’t Like
I would have loved to see Rumi and Kai, Hannah, Gareth, and the whole crew to see more of each of other and really develop their friend group. Obviously Kai was the most developed, but I still would have liked more from him. I feel like all I know about him is that his dad’s an asshole.

I felt like there was parts of the last quarter of the book that felt a little rushed. It was like everything was happening at one time, one top of each other, and no real time for the characters to react.

Akemi Dawn Bowman is quickly becoming a go-to-author for me when I want a YA contemporary story that has a big emotional impact. I loved that Rumi was allowed to be angry and grief isn’t always expressed as sadness. I loved seeing that Rumi isn’t a perfect person, and sometimes she’s downright unlikeable, but she’s so real. Summer Bird Blue was a truly captivating story about healing that will play your heartstrings and pull you in.

I received a copy of the book from Simon Pulse via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Iris.
555 reviews253 followers
January 26, 2019
Wow. This book was stunning. It took my heart and shattered it into a million pieces, and then it healed it again. This book was gorgeous and amazing and I'm just completely blown away.

I don't even know how to review this book.

I don't think I am capable of reviewing this book.

Summer Bird Blue is a masterpiece. It's heartbreak, and it's healing. Its beautiful. Really truly beautiful.

Akemi Dawn Bowman is an amazing writer. The writing is spectacular! Really really spectacular.

And the characters were so vivid, so real. Oh my god. This book was just... wow.

I give up. I'm not giving this a full on review. I'm simply not capable. This book is gorgeous and painful and 100% worth your time. I am in awe.

***Initial Reaction, December 24, 2018***

Wow. This book was gorgeous and stunning and heartbreaking. It was just... so powerful. And beautiful. And painful. Really really painful. RTC.

***Pre-Review, June 23, 3018***

After reading Starfish, this has gone from a book vaguely on my radar, to one of my most anticipated releases. Can I have this now please?
Profile Image for Schizanthus Nerd.
1,188 reviews248 followers
March 30, 2019
Sorry in advance for the ramble. I’m still an emotional wreck from this book so this review may not be overly coherent.

I knew I’d have to read everything Akemi Dawn Bowman ever writes when I fell in love with Starfish, which I reviewed here. With Summer Bird Blue Akemi has confirmed her place as one of my favourite authors.

Rumi is one of the most acerbic characters I’ve loved in a long time. She’s angry, she’s confused, she’s mean, she feels guilty as hell. Lea, the good sister, daughter, friend, human being, died in an accident and Rumi is left to try to figure out how to do life without her best friend. Her mother has abandoned her, shipped her off to Hawaii for the summer to live with Aunty Ani, who’s practically a stranger, and Rumi is furious.

Rumi’s grief is so palpable that I needed to take a few breaks from reading just so I could breathe for a while without inhaling pain. The portrayal of grief in this book was brilliant - visceral, uncomfortable, painful and so real. Normally I would be annoyed if a character’s thoughts were as repetitive as Rumi’s were at times but it added to the authenticity of her character.

People were shown to be grieving differently in this book; there wasn’t a one size fits all portrayal. I hope this book makes its way into the hands of young people who need to know that they’re not alone, that their feelings are valid and that it’s okay to need help.
Sometimes I’m not sure if there is anywhere left in the world I can look where I won’t see the empty spaces she left behind.
Some of my favourite conversations in this book included Rumi’s ‘sandwich method’, where she wraps what she really feels inside two compliments, including, “I like your eyeshadow today. I feel like I’m eating neon-colored mucus. Thanks for cooking.”

As I read I kept finding ways to use sandwiches as an analogy. For example, Aunt Ani’s house is sandwiched between the homes of Kai and Mr. Watanabe who, while they’re polar opposites in many respects, befriend Rumi and support her while she’s grieving. Then, if you want to take it even further, Rumi is sandwiched between the memories of her sister and the fear of having a future without her.

My favourite character was Aunty Ani’s lonely neighbour, Mr. Watanabe, who has a yappy dog called Poi and is hiding a beautiful heart beneath his grumpy exterior. While he’s comfortable with silence, when he speaks he’s certainly worth listening to.
“Grief is only a visitor, but it goin’ stay mo’ longer when it sees you hiding from it.”
I loved the way music is woven into this book and the lives of its characters. Rumi’s unique way of describing different songs helped me ‘hear’ and feel them in a way that I don’t remember experiencing in a book before.
The piano music is like vanilla lattes and sugar cookies. Cozy. Homely.
I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when I learned one of the characters in this book was asexual. I was overjoyed that this wasn’t just casually mentioned and then set aside. The representation was realistic and the reactions of other characters when they discussed it was everything I hoped it would be. It was never portrayed as a weakness or something to be ashamed of and I loved that kissing an attractive person didn’t magically change this person’s sexuality. I definitely want to read more books featuring asexual and aromantic characters.

I promised myself I wouldn’t cry before Rumi did and with some strategic reading breaks I made it!!! almost made it. When I finally did cry it was definitely the ugly kind; I essentially sobbed through most of the final 10%, obliterating about half a dozen tissues along the way. I’m now nursing a fairly spectacular ugly cry hangover headache but it was entirely worth it.

Before I finish I have to mention the amazing cover! It was Sarah Creech’s gorgeous cover of Starfish that drew me to Akemi’s debut and once again Sarah’s cover design and illustration complement the story perfectly.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Ink Road, an imprint of Black & White Publishing, for the opportunity to read this book. I want to recommend it to everyone!
Profile Image for Rae .
301 reviews74 followers
August 25, 2018
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman is an emotional story of loss, life, and music. When Rumi's sister, Lea, dies in a horrific car accident, Rumi is left to pick up the pieces of her life. Abandoned by her mother, Rumi spends her summer in Hawaii with her aunt, trying to figure out how to live without her sister. Along the way she befriends the neighbors--Kai, the boy next door, and Uncle George, an elderly man who has experienced his own share of losses. 

My goodness, what amazing piece of literature did I just read? This is the second book written by Akemi Dawn Bowman, and I'm simply blown away by how beautifully written her books are. Summer Bird Blue was downright lyrical, tugging at my emotions, and leaving me feeling utterly wrecked at the end. Not every book makes me cry, but both of Akemi Dawn Bowman's books have turned me into a sobbing mess (in the best of ways, of course).

Summer Bird Blue is well-paced. You follow Rumi throughout an entire summer. At first there is no light, but through friendship, Rumi learns to write the song she owes her sister, Lea. The entire story is well-executed and laid out with care. The progression from dark to light is gradual, and Rumi's grief is explored in depth. This book is truly a study in grief and an emotional read that sticks with you long after you've read the last page. 

I loved the theme of music throughout the book. Music is Rumi's life, so it makes sense that it's front and center in the book. Music has so much power, and that comes through in this story.

I adored the book's ending, even though it was tough to read. While it made me cry, I liked how all of the heavy emotions really came to a head. Rumi confronts demons throughout the book, and this continues to the very end.

The characters in this book were wonderfully written. I felt like I was in Hawaii as I read the pidgin the author incorporated into the book. I thoroughly enjoyed Rumi's interactions with Kai and Uncle George, two very different characters in Rumi's life. Kai is all easy smiles, patience, and understanding. He helps Rumi learn how to have fun again. Uncle George is delightfully crotchety. He's cranky and abrupt but finds a soft spot for Rumi. Rumi is an intense character--dynamic, complex, and deeply sensitive despite her tough exterior. 

I loved this book. If you don't have this book pre-ordered, I highly recommend you do so. Seriously. It was that good!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing the Kindle version of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Frank-Intergalactic Bookdragon.
575 reviews227 followers
September 13, 2021
Edit October 2020
It's been two years since I've read this book and reviewed it as an own-voices aromantic asexual reviewer.

This is still an asexual own-voices review. I'm actually even more sure of my asexuality now than when I read it, even found the right label for me - demisexual. But I no longer identify as aromantic.

It turns out I'm actually hella gay. So take this review with a grain of salt. This book still holds a special place in my heart as the first time I truly related to a character's sexuality and I'd love to reread it soon. I'm keeping my old review up because this was my first time coming out, even if it was with a wrong label.

So to my queer friends, don't worry if you haven't found the right labels. Sometimes you have to choose a wrong one(s) and experiment before finding the right one(s) like I did, and that's okay. Sometimes you change and so do your labels and that's okay. Heck, it's possible you'll never find a right label and that's okay too.

Be kind with yourself. And at the end of the day, you are greater than any label could ever describe.

Original Review November 2018
Akemi Dawn Bowman might just be my favorite contemporary author. She's written some of the most relatable books I've ever read.

I'm not sure how she does it, with this and Starfish I couldn't relate to the main character at first until they said one line that made me fall completely in love with them. For Kiko it was around chapter three of four I believe where I wasn't sure I liked her until she said something about how do some people not need to recharge after being social, that's how she became one of my all time favorite characters.

It took a little longer for Rumi, it wasn't until she said "Most other people my age have crushes-they're attracted to each other and have the urge to flirt. I don't feel anything like that-when I think about romance, I feel indifferent." and finally, at long last, I found an aromantic character, something I've been asking for for a long time.

As an aromantic and possibly a little ace I 100% approve of this rep, everything about it is correct; the apathy to romance, the value of friendship, the pressure from society, the strong belief that romance isn't the strongest form of love, it's absolute perfection. Down to the point of even taking the guy I thought would be a love interest and making them friends instead.

BUTTTT we don't rate books solely for their diversity, then this would be a five star book (the cast is mostly biracial, and not just white+poc). The story is also very emotional and captivating, I would read this for hours on end and not want to stop which rarely happens.

There's also a huge emphases on family, where as Starfish was about a broken family that couldn't be fixed, this is about a broken family that can be healed after a hard, emotional journey.

Also Kai is David from Lilo & Stitch reincarnated, FiTe mE!

However, and this is just me, but I find this book wasn't particularly as powerful as it's predecessor. Though perhaps that's simply because the topic of narcissism in Starfish is much closer to the demons I've dealt with than grief. I also found Kiko to be a lot closer to my personality than Rumi so I related to her more. But this entire paragraph is purely my personal preference so maybe don't take it too seriously.

But I also found most of the side characters to be pretty forgettable, actually I've already forgotten most of the supporting cast. Maybe Bowman just isn't used to juggling this many characters? After all Starfish had a pretty small cast while this needed many more characters for the plot.

In summary; I don't love Summer Bird Blue as much as Starfish (which might be my favorite book I've read this year) but it's still a very beautiful book with a lot to offer.
Profile Image for Tonkica.
648 reviews122 followers
June 15, 2021
„Kad joj sestra Lea pogine u prometnoj nesreći dok je majka bila za volanom, Rumi Seto mora ljeto provesti tisućama kilometara daleko od doma i posve sama suočiti se sa smrću voljene osobe, raspadom obitelji, potragom za smislom života i granicama ljubavi. Boravak kod tete Ani na Havajima donosi joj neobična prijateljstva s tinejdžerom surferom Kaijem i osamdesetogodišnjim Georgeom Watanabeom, koja će joj pomoći da ponovno pronađe želju za životom i stihove pjesme koju ona i Lea nikad nisu stigle dovršiti.“ Ukratko napisano na poleđini knjige savršeno opisuje srž knjige. No, moram dodati da je ona puno puno više i da biste vidjeli u kojem točno pogledu, morat ćete ju sami pročitati i doživjeti razne emocije na koje će vas Rumina priča „natjerati“.

Cijeli osvrt pronađite ovdje: https://knjige-u-svom-filmu.webador.c...
Profile Image for Kiera.
353 reviews117 followers
March 21, 2019
Summary from Goodreads

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

My thoughts

Summer Bird Blue is the first book of Akemi's that I had read. While I wasn't completely blown away by this book there were some things that I really enjoyed about it. Summer Bird Blue takes place in Hawaii. I don't think I've ever read a book that takes place in Hawaii so I really enjoyed the change of setting.

Our main character, Rumi is grieving over the loss of her sister, Lea. Lea and Rumi both share this love of music and Rumi wants to finish a song that she and her sister were working on before Leaving died. Rumi was not my favorite character. I just didn't really latch on to her.

However I did really enjoy the neighbors personality. I loved Mr. Watanabe soooooo much. I honestly would have loved for Rumi to have spent even more time with him and for him to share more of his story and his wisdom with her.


Something I did like was that Rumi stopped herself in the romance with her and Kai and said, I'm not ready for this. I really liked that she was able to muster the strength to say, no I can't do this.

I also really liked the finished song, I thought it was very beautifully written

End of spolier.....

What I didn't like

I didn't really like the writing style. For some reason I never really found myself very invested in the story. So it was less enjoyable for me and I didn't like it as much as I wanted to.

Age Rating:

Ages 13 up

This book has swearing

Talk about romance and feelings but no kissing

No explicit scenes.


3.5 stars

Not super impressed with Summer Bird Blue. I didn't really find myself enjoying it and Never really got into the story, even though there were parts that I enjoyed I couldn't enjoy them because I wasn't fully into the story.
Profile Image for Kathy - Books & Munches.
447 reviews156 followers
July 28, 2019
As with Starfish, the writing was beautiful once again. Bowman writes in a way that draws me in immediately, which makes reading her work a feat. Of course.. We have to take in consideration the way her writing also succeeds at hitting me in the feels every single time. It's only the second book of hers I've read, but I can tell she has a knack for grabbing my heart and squeezing it, twisting it, turning it, breaking it in the best ways possible. The stories living in her head are ones that speak to me and I love it when I come across a writer like that.

There are no angels here. Only the demons that follow me everywhere.

The content of this book is.. very focused on grief since our main character, Rumi, has just lost her sister in a car crash. This makes it a challenge to read but in a way that felt.. good? I don't know. It was simply done so perfectly that you felt drawn in, felt what Rumi felt but I never had the urge to throw the book aside due to being too intense. Which is what I was scared of happening, haha.

Two other, smaller aspects of Summer Bird Blue are the presence of questioning queer rep and music. Both I love seeing in books and seeing them in the same one made my heart swell. There isn't enough questioning rep in books - that's a simple fact. I know people questioning their identity need to see more books like it to feel like it's okay to doubt where on the spectrum you fit in. If you even fit in at all - because, let's face it, sometimes a simple label just doesn't cut it. [To be more specific, there is mention of asexuality, demisexual and gray asexuality, aromantic rep as well.]
As for the music.. It helps Rumi dealing with her feelings, her mourning and working through it. Which is what Papa Roach did for me in the past. That band meant and means the world to me and helped me through so many events in my life. It was beautiful seeing something  similar like that happening for Rumi. Even more so since it was linked to a side character - her neighbour - I came to love very, very much since you saw him getting over his struggles as well and I just.. It was beautiful to witness.

The presence of Hawaiian culture needs to be mentioned as well. Although the writing regarding that sometimes got on my nerves - English isn't my first language so it wasn't that.. easy to read at times.. - there were a lot of details thrown into the story that referred to the culture. It lifted this novel to a whole new level, even though it took some getting used to.

Grief is a monster - not everyone gets out alive, and those who do might only survive in pieces. But it's a monster that can be conquered, with time.

Not necessarily a bad thing, but something to warn people about is Rumi not being the most likeable main character at first. As a reader, you need to take some time to connect with her and accept her egocentric character to the point of being mean. Definitely due to her grieving but it wasn't all too pretty at times. I can see why people would get annoyed by her and her hard time communicating with others but I promise she's worth it! [So, again, not necessarily a bad thing but something I want to warn people about.]

Summer Bird Blue is a gorgeous story about a girl grieving the loss of her sister and finding ways to cope with that loss, trying to get on with her life even though she feels undeserving of living. It's a mentally hard book to get through but very much worth the journey!

5 / 5!
Profile Image for Claudie Arseneault.
Author 19 books408 followers
September 22, 2018
tw (which i forgot in my coffee-less state this morning) : car accident, sibling death, grief, panic attacks, drowning

This was fantastic. A bit of a slow start, but by the end I couldn't let go. I loved Rumi's relationships with her two neighbours, but especially with Mr. Watanabe. 💜 Oh and the descriptions of music are just amazing? Really nice.

Massive props for the asexual rep, too. It's woven throughout the story as an important part of Rumi (rather than 'mentioned one then never again'). At first I thought it was muddying aro & ace but it's obvious Rumi knows the difference--she's questionning both, and they feel tied together in *her* personal experience. And that feels rather true to life for many aroace spec folks. This is also one of the few times when the refusal to pick a definite label didn't feel like a dismissal of the label & community. It's so much more tied to where Rumi is at with decision making about her life and herself. I really appreciated that (YMMV on that topic).
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