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4.08  ·  Rating details ·  4,356 ratings  ·  934 reviews
A half-Japanese teen grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school in this debut novel.

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain tha
Paperback, 343 pages
Published September 11th 2018 by Simon Pulse (first published September 26th 2017)
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4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,356 ratings  ·  934 reviews

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May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lola by: Masooma
This book hit home for me. It hit home hard.

I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but at some point I wasn’t reading about Kiko Himura anymore. I was reading about myself.

I know what it’s like to have a parent who criticizes you day and night – not just your appearance, actions and personality, but also your dreams, hobbies and even the friends you hang out with.

I know what that’s like because I have a parent like that. It doesn’t matter how skinny I am, someone who judges continuously will a
Akemi Bowman
Oct 06, 2017 added it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Hi, author here. People often ask me why I chose to write this book, and usually I tell them it's because this is the story I needed most as a teen. That's the short answer. Here's the long one:

Starfish is a book about family, and identity, and finding hope in a world that often makes it difficult. But it’s also a story about how necessary the truth can be.

I know what it feels like to be afraid to tell your story, and what it feels like to keep your fears bottled up in your heart. I know how lon
C.G. Drews
This was brutally BRILLIANT. I have...I have feelings. So many. At least more than 2 which is intense. It was sweet and it was super super sad and had an incredible ending and, ok. Wow.

+ It has the BEST representation of social anxiety I've ever read.
It literally just read my mind and writing out my thoughts...which sounds creepy written out like that wow Cait well done. But I mean this in a good way! If you have anxiety or social anxiety...I 500% recommend this book. I mean, I heckin
may ➹
I read this book in September, and wrote my review at the same time. Then I rewrote my review in February. It’s been two months since I rewrote my review, but I couldn’t bring myself to ever post it before now.

And I’m not exactly sure why?

I think it’s because this book means a. lot. to me, and writing my review was hard, because I found so much of myself in Kiko that it hurt. Because Kiko is a character who struggles for so long to find herself worthy or beautiful… and her thoughts hit too close
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This painting isn't about the starfish. It's about the girl who wants to venture out into the ocean, away from the starfish, so she can feel she matters.

I'm eating cold brew coffee as I am writing this review because I’m reminded that although the ice cream is cold at first, it slowly begins to warm up and melt inside your mouth to the point where the taste of the caffeine is the only taste. This book reminded me of that: cold at first but then warm as it mingles and the taste of the flavor
Elise (TheBookishActress)
I have approximately 400000000000 feelings about this, but unfortunately the vast majority are (in a very personal, very conflicted way) negative.

Okay, let’s start with some positives. First of all, Kiko’s struggle with self hatred feels super personal and authentic and relatable. I loved the "what I wanted to say" and "what I actually said" dichotomies [and how they translate at the ending? you know it's coming, but it still hits home]. I loved the art mentions at the end of every chapter; they
destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]
But some people are just starfish - they need everyone to fill the roles that they assign.

Kiko's story is so tough to read at points - not only due to her childhood trauma, but also due to her struggles as a biracial young woman in a rural town. Her father is Japanese and her mother is white, and her mother has spent Kiko's entire life shaming her half-Asian appearance, name, and culture.

She once told me she wished she had given me and my brothers more "traditional" names because she was "kind
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trigger warnings for emotional and sexual abuse, incredibly toxic relationship, suicidide attempt.

This is definitely a story that will stay with me. I remember reading the blurb and immediately wanting to dive into the book.
It sounded like something I could relate to and I did. It brought me back to my high school and college days. Heck, even uni. The anxiety, the insecurity, not being someone that is social, but so desperately wanting to fix that about yourself because people kept pointing it
I'm so grateful to have read Kiko's story because it is so meaningful, beautiful, moving and inspiring, but most of all, it doesn't shy away from the ugliness and horrors of what people like Kiko face, which makes it so real.

I've experienced 20 different emotions and I'm pretty sure I need a heart transplant because Bowman has destroyed mine from all the feels.

I was angry to read about the racism and how constantly Kiko was told she could never be beautiful, normal, and accepted because of her
may ❀
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literally everyone with a beating heart
Recommended to may ❀ by: may ➹
Let’s all just pretend I came up with some good, clean, coherent introduction that summarizes my thoughts on this book bc we all know that im not capable of doing that

So instead we list


- This was amazing
- This was fantastic
- This was so real I was just screaming for hours on end
- Idk how but the author uses words SOOOOOOOOO well to describe how suffocating and irrational but totally REAL anxiety can be and how IT LITERALLY CAN HAPPEN FOR NO REASON and that just like :| makes everything
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

Actual Rating: 3.75 stars

“We all have to dream our own dreams. We only get one life to live—live it for yourself, not anyone else.”

🌟 I have heard a lot of good things about Akemi’s writing style and after finishing this book I can understand why now! I will definitely read her other works.

🌟 Akemi’s prose is wonderful and is addicting. The story deals with many heavy objects and I think the writing was appropriate for
Korrina  (OwlCrate)
Really beautiful and heartbreaking story. I thought the anxiety rep was really great. Be warned - this story is brutal and hard to read at times. There’s a lot of heavy subject matter (most prominently child abuse and sexual abuse). But if you’re okay with reading about those topics, I definitely think this book is worth picking up. It also really opened my eyes to racial issues I hadn’t thought about in depth (in regards to Kiko’s struggles with being biracial in a small town, and with a parent ...more
✨    jamieson   ✨
"But some people are just starfish. They need everyone to fill the roles they assign


this is genuinely one of the most woefully underrated books I've ever read. I literally feel stressed about how few reviews this book has, because it's beyond incredible Akemi Dawn Bowman writes a story thats authentic, simultaneously hopeful and harrowing.

Starfish follows Kiko Hiruma, a Japanese/American biracial teen who dreams of going to Prism art school, but struggles to show her e
This book hit close to home for me, as my own mother most likely has undiagnosed narcissistic personality disorder. I feel grateful to Akemi Dawn Bowman for tackling such a difficult topic - having an abusive parent with a serious mental illness - in conjunction with crafting a main character, Kiko, who is half-Japanese and has social anxiety. Bowman gives each of Kiko's dimensions ample room to develop, so they all felt real and raw and meaningful. Her descriptions of Kiko's mother got me so em ...more
Trigger warnings include abandonment, rejection, toxic family relationships, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, racism, divorce, suicide attempt and mental health.

I live my life in the small place between “uncomfortable” and “awkward.”

I don’t know how to even begin to explain how I feel about Starfish so I’ll start with something easy. That cover!!! Sarah Creech has created one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen! This artist must be an author’s dream come true. The colours, the layout, th
My video and blog review of this book are now both up!

I have no words to currently summarize my feelings for this book. I plan on filming on video review and I might also write a review for my blog. It might take me a while...
But let it be known that this is a new favorite of mine.
Karlita | Tale Out Loud
It’s strange — hope can make you forget so much, so quickly. That’s why hoping is so dangerous.
Kiko Himura’s relationship with Angeline, her mother, was emotionally draining and noxious. She knew that her love for art was her one-way ticket to get into Prism Art School in New York — her chance to get away from her mother, the memories she wanted to forget and the constant guilt she always has.

I understand why she felt alone given that his father chose the easy way out and leave, while living
chloe ♡
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book is so freaking good - I couldn't put it down! I was supposed to study for tests + a dictation during the weekend, buuuuuut... I procrastinated. I kept reading this. When my mom gave me suspicious looks, I pretended to go to the bathroom and continued reading. (Mom, if you're reading this, I'm sorry :P) AND WHEN I FINISHED READING THE BOOK, I WANTED TO KICK A TREE. BECAUSE I WANT MORE. I NEED MORE. AND THERE ISN'T MORE.

(Dear Akemi Dawn Bowman, please ple
Lily ☁️
THIS WAS BEAUTIFUL, GUYS. :’) (view spoiler)


I totally forgot to add this to my currently-reading shelf, because I was busy relating to the Asian & anxiety rep, and tearing up over things.

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Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starfish is a novel of love and loss. Love comes in its typical form, a guy that a teenager meets and falls head over heels for. Loss, however, doesn’t come in its cliché form. Instead, it comes in the form of loss of confidence, which, in my view, is momentous and needed to be covered in a novel.

Kiko Himura is a quiet teenager who remains wrapped in her bubble of social anxiety. It’s hard for her to deal with people or indulge in interactions without her social crutch, her best friend. Her anx
Abbie (boneseasonofglass)
Ohhhh booooy was this book intense! It was such an emotional rollercoaster tbh. I would just like to say that Kiko's mum is absolutely the worst person i've read about, I just hate her so much. Starfish indeed.

I really loved Kiko, and watching her grow, and watching her learn to love herself and escape and learn who she was as a person as well as learning what real love is, whether romantic, platonic or familial love.

I especially like at the end of chapters, where Kiko would draw something to
So. Many. Tears.
Nenia ☠️ Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Protector of Out of Print Gems, Mother of Smut, and Actual Garbage Can ☠️ Campbell

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest

I think I went into this book with elevated expectations because so many people were singing its praises. I get that I might not be the "ideal" person to review this, but I also think that I have some valid criticisms as a somewhat experienced reviewer who has read a great deal of books (both good and bad), and also has some firsthand experience with social anxiety. There were some really good things in this book, and there were also some t
Cam (abookeater)
A copy was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

TWs: racism, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, parental abuse, suicide attempt.

I really need to stop expecting less out of contemporary novels because they always end up destroying my soul every single time.

Starfish narrates the story of an artist named Kiko who gets the chance to reconnect with her childhood best friend after years of not seeing or contacting him. I thought we would be limited lo their romance b
Joce (squibblesreads)
3.5-3.75 stars, I think. I loved the dynamics and the bones of the story but some characters were too one dimensional to be effective and there were SO MANY DASHES used haphazardly. I’m talking like 3-7 per PAGE. In some places it made sense for a dash to be used and in others, it was clear that a period, or conjunction + clause would be appropriate. Dashes cause and imply a deliberate pause to interject, and in some places, the following phrase/clause wasn’t an interjection at all and was just ...more
alice (arctic books)
God, this was so fucking beautiful. This was everything I didn't know I wanted and more. RTC
originally posted on my blog

Trigger/content warnings: anxiety, emotional abuse, childhood sexual abuse, suicide ableism

I have a lot of feelings about this book because I related to Kiko so much. Growing up in a very white environment as an Asian person messes with your self-esteem and self-image, and like Kiko, I definitely felt that I would never really be seen as attractive by people because I was Asian. I literally had a white friend tell me he generally wasn’t attracted to Asian people (he i
Sprinkled Pages
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
actual rating: 4.5 stars

hOLY CRAPS WAS THIS MAGNIFICENT. it had such a powerful message and was so well written and even though it's a book and not art, you can visualise the art SO SO well. kiko is so complex and beautiful and she is so strong. there were times where my heart hurt reading this book and i wanted to reach through and just give her a hug.

this tackled so many different issues such as sexual abuse, racism, toxic parental relationships, biraciality JUST SO MUCH I AM IN AWE. i cannot
Dani - Perspective of a Writer
Check out more reviews @ Perspective of a Writer...

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 the worst happens and she doesn't get in... When a childhood friend offers her a new opportunity she takes it, in spite of her anxieties and fears. Outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns
Alice-Elizabeth (marriedtobooks)
I'm on the promotional blog tour for Starfish, head over to my blog to see the full post: https://marriedtobooksreviewsandblog....

Follow me on Instagram where I take photos of book everyday!:

First of all, the representation for Anxiety in Starfish was just… very well done. I have an anxiety disorder and finding stories with main characters in that have anxiety with great representation is a massive struggle. Some of the topics within the novel (sexual abu
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Bookish Kingdom: BR Starfish, June 4 (2018) 10 13 Jun 21, 2018 02:15AM  

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Akemi Dawn Bowman is the author of William C. Morris Award Finalist STARFISH, SUMMER BIRD BLUE, and HARLEY IN THE SKY. Her upcoming sci-fi series, THE INFINITY COURTS, is set to release in 2021, followed by her middle-grade debut, GENERATION MISFITS. A proud Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, she has a BA in social sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She currently lives in Scotland ...more
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“I draw a girl without a face, drawing somebody else’s face onto her own reflection.” 15 likes
“We all have to dream our own dreams. We only get one life to live—live it for yourself, not anyone else.” 15 likes
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