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4.20  ·  Rating details ·  8,735 ratings  ·  1,911 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
Kindle Edition, 353 pages
Published September 26th 2017 by Simon Pulse
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Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,735 ratings  ·  1,911 reviews

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Akemi Dawn 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
this truly meant everything to me

tw: racism, sexual & emotional abuse, parental abuse, suicide attempt
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
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
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 ice cream 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 ta
Elle (ellexamines)
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
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 clo
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
this book is a blessing.

bye bc i just finished and wanna reread it again 🤕🤕
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
Charlotte May
“Some people are just starfish…they need the world to sit around them, pointing at them and validating their feelings. They will always find a way to make themselves the centre of attention.”

What a beautiful story 🥰
This book was so damn quotable I can’t even.

Kiko has always struggled to fit in, she is half Japanese, half American and has always felt ‘different.’ The casual racism from most of her peers along with her social anxiety makes for a tough combination.

Throw in her emotionally abus
♛ 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 everythi
Melanie (MelReads)
the writing was beautiful and made me emotional at times but i have a lot of thoughts… (will come back with a full review later).

tw: racism, sexual abuse, emotional and parental abuse, suicide attempt.
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
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 fo
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
✨    jami   ✨
"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 h
Schizanthus Nerd
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, the design, the awesomeness of it all combined!

I need this cover image available as a print so I can frame it and admire it every day. I also need Sarah commi
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, whil
chloe ♡
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing

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 pl
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.
Starfish is art. With its wonderful writing, amazing characters, and thoughtful representation – this is legitimately a beautifully crafted art.

An art that I would gaze at for hours. An art that I wouldn't want to stop thinking about before I sleep. An art that broke me and also brought me together piece by piece. An art that I love with its flaws and all.

“Beauty isn’t a single thing. Beauty is dreaming—it’s different for everyone, and there are so many versions of it that you mostly have no
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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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 som
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.

Blog | Bloglovin’ | Instagram | TumblrTwitter
Frank-Intergalactic Bookdragon
Reread May 2020
"Beauty is dreaming."

Yep, still my favorite. I cried multiple times on this read and Kiko is still the character I relate to the most in any work of fiction I've read or watched. If anything I related to her more on this read!

First read September 2018
I've never related to a book as much as this one.

Trigger warnings: sexual abuse and pedophilia, attempted suicide (non graphic), and emotional child abuse.

Yes, I'm rewriting this review. My reasons are a) I feel I shared too much of a
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
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
So. Many. Tears.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
“My parents told me art was what lazy people did when they just wanted to work on the side of the street. They wanted me to be a doctor. So when I had two daughters, I told them they could be anything they wanted, even if it was a painter on the side of the street. And do you know what? One of them is in medical school and the other wants to be a surfer.” He laughs. “We all have to dream our own dreams. We only get one life to live—live it for yourself, not anyone else. Because when you’re on yo ...more
alice (arctic books)
God, this was so fucking beautiful. This was everything I didn't know I wanted and more. RTC ...more
Cam (justabookeater)
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
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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 husband and two children. She overthinks everything, including this bi ...more

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“We all have to dream our own dreams. We only get one life to live—live it for yourself, not anyone else.” 61 likes
“Beauty isn’t a single thing. Beauty is dreaming一it’s different for everyone, and there are so many versions of it that you mostly have no control over how you see it” 38 likes
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