Friday 8 June 2018

Review on Starfish

Kiko Himura has her heart set on going to Prism, one of the best art schools in the country. However, Kiko doesn't get in, and with no backup school, she has no idea what to do next. When her best friend leaves for college early, Kiko seems doomed to spend the summer with her self obsessed mother and her two brothers who she barely speaks to, but her plans all change when she bumps into Jamie, an old childhood friend who moved to California. Jamie convinces Kiko to spend the summer with him in California, where she will be able to look into alternative art schools. However, leaving her family behind turns out to be more difficult than Kiko anticipated.

So I accidentally judged this book by it's cover and thought it was going to be a Sci-Fi book before reading the summary! The cover is completely gorgeous, and as I own about 100 galaxy themed things, it fits my aesthetic perfectly. However the cover doesn't really give the genre away, and I don't think anyone would guess it was a contemporary book just from looking at the cover. I definitely don't think the packaging fits the content, but the cover is definitely eye catching!

The book follows Kiko, a girl who has just graduated from high school and is looking to get into art school. Kiko doesn't get along with her family, and is desperate to move away from home for school. When Kiko doesn't get a place in the only school she applied to, she has no idea what to do about her future. Something that I immedietly loved was how it showed that sometimes our plans don't go the way we thought they would, and we are forced to find alternatives. Life is never smooth sailing, it is full of seemingly unclimbable mountains and ditches we can't seem to scramble out of. As I currently have no idea what I'm doing with my life, I related to Kiko's struggles.

Something that came up quite a lot in the book was Kiko's heritage. Kiko is mixed race, with a white mum and Japanese dad. Kiko feels as if she doesn't belong anywhere, and starts believing her mothers ridiculous beauty standards. Kiko's mother is awful to her, and along with blaming Kiko for practically everything, she makes her feel ugly by idolising blonde, white girls. I hated that Kiko's mum would treat her own daughter this way, and I was happy that Kiko eventually discovered what having a real family is like, and realised that beauty doesn't have a race, as not only white girls can be beautiful.

We often see siblings who get along well and siblings who hate each other, but we rarely see siblings who are indifferent to each other. Kiko cares about her brothers, but she has nothing in common with them, and rarely spends time with them. This is similar to the relationship my mum has with her siblings, so I thought it was interesting to see a character in a similar situation. I did find it a little sad that they didn't get along, as they all had one thing in common, which was hating living with their mum. I felt really bad for Kiko's younger brother, and felt as if he wouldn't have had such a hard time if he hadn't felt so alone. It's important for children to be able to tell people how they're feeling, and Shoji wasn't able to do that.

I talked about Kiko's anxiety and how I related to it in my Starfish blog tour post, but I'm going to touch on it a little here too. I was really happy with how it was dealt with, as I see way too many books that treat anxiety as if it's a character quirk rather than a mental health problem. I related to Kiko a lot, especially with her not being able to go to new places alone. I also loved how although Jamie helped Kiko with her anxiety, he didn't miracuously cure it. Something I hate is the idea that boyfriends are a cure all. Boys can't cure mental illnesses by being cute and charming, so I loved how what happened was realistic.

Hiroshi was an interesting character, and I loved how he became a father figure to Kiko. I loved how he made Kiko feel proud of her Japanese heritage instead of ashamed, and how she got to experience Japanese culture for the first time. Hiroshi was a brilliant role model, and I loved how Kiko slowly started to realise how incapable her mum was at parenting.

The one thing I didn't enjoy that much about this book was the romance. There are times when I love the friends to lovers trope, but it was too obvious from the start that they were going to end up together romantically. I loved that they had been friends for so long, and as platonic relationships between boys and girls are rare in YA, I think I would have preferred if they had stayed friends.

Overall I loved this book, and I thought it dealt perfectly with anxiety, race and family issues. This was a brilliant debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from Akemi in the future!
Starfish is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

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