REVIEW: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman – Asian MC! Art Appreciation!! Magical Writing!!! (wow this just keeps on getting better)

Hi. I read this book and I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO START???

Starfish was so incredibly beautiful. It’s just that book WHERE YOU CAN’T EVEN. Words do not suffice at this point. What’s the point of writing a review WHEN YOU CAN JUST READ THIS BOOK? I will try and fail, to review this book (but omg it’s so much more than that). I have so much to say about this book BUT HOW DO I WRITE AGAIN?


Thank you Netgalley and Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)  for the review copy! All opinions are my own and are not affected by this.

Starfish #1.jpg

Let’s start with our Main Character, Kiko, WHO IS HALF-ASIAN (half white). Can we just appreciate that for a moment? While I couldn’t really relate to her feeling out of place because of being Japanese (London is very multicultural) but Kiko is SO GOD DAMN SWEET AND REALISTIC. She goes through SO FREAKING MUCH and I just want to hug her and be like…FLIP LIFE ATM.

And her character arc is so beautiful. She has social anxiety (I think the rep was DONE REALLY REALLY EXTREMELY WELL. I don’t have anxiety but GOSH, this was just described in such a real, raw way) and she likes to draw and paint (!!) and I love literally every sentence that was about her painting. Her passion, her hobby, was SO MAGICAL. I could literally see Kiko’s paintings in front of my eyes.

“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 control over how you see it.”


This book had the best messages…LIKE EVER. It’s all about beauty, HOW BEAUTY COMES IN DIFFERENT FORMS, how Asians can be pretty (I hate you Adam. just letting you know) how beauty is different, not just in one form, it’s not blond hair and blue eyes, it’s not celebrities and magazines, it’s you and loving you and I JUST APPRECIATED THIS BOOK FOR THAT.

And the romance was SPOT ON. I really really enjoyed it. it was perfect slow burn and Kiko made she was actually ready for Jamie, for a relationship. She gave time for herself, and at the end, she LOVED herself and no matter how much it pained her, she made herself stronger and she was stronger. She was such a strong character. And when they were together, OMG IT WAS WRITTEN PERFECTLY SO THAT I SHIPPED THEM TOO MUCH.

Kindle #2

This was a lot about Kiko finding herself, loving herself, accepting herself and coming to terms with; YES SHE IS HALF-AISAN, YES SHE CAN BE PRETTY, SHE CAN’t PLEASE EVERYONE, SOME LOVE IS TOXIC and literally the list goes on. What I’m trying to say, THE MESSAGES ARE SO PROMINENT AND RIGHT AND PERFECT and they’re added so amazingly into the book.I really liked that Kiko got to know more about her Japanese Heritage.


The writing IS TO DIE FOR! I practically finished this book in one sitting and it was so addicting and so easy. I didn’t feel like I had to concentrate, I was so immersed in the character’s and what was happening which is super surprising for a contemporary book. Bowman IS ACTUALLY A MASTER AT WRITING. it is so pretty and want to add like 50 quotes from the book here. It wasn’t slow at all, It was paced so well.

“He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve; he keeps it in a locked box with all of his dreams and expressions because he doesn’t want to share them with the rest of the world”


OMG KIKO’S MUM WAS UTTER TRASH. I get if she was going through tough times herself or had a mental illness but NO SHE IS JUST PLAIN RACIST… TO HER OWN CHILDREN Sorry she doesn’t know what ‘unconditional love is’
I officially hate starfishes now BECAUSE OMG YOU SELF-CENTRED little…UGHHH. I HATE her with a passion.

She literally always ruins Kiko’s life and all she cares about is just HER REPUTATION and HER LIFe. GO FRICKING DIE OKAY. She literally changes her moods ALL THE TIME and makes everything about her. I could give you about a million examples of how Kiko’s mum is SO WRONG IN EVERY WAY. She lies and SHE IS SO MANIPULATIVE.

And you know what. I GET Kiko for wanting her mother’s love and approval. I so so get that. Because what child doesn’t? I get why Kiko gave in nearly every time and I think that’s what makes Kiko real. Because she’s not perfect. She was a child who wanted her mum. AND I AM SO GLAD that was acknowledged and her character at the end, was different and she realised that her mum’s love was some fake version of love! THANK YOU


Kindle #3

I do think this had some parallel’s with Eliza and her monsters; Art, brothers she doesn’t really know, social anxiety but the stories definitely are very different. I just thought about this a lot when reading.

I also would have loved more of some characters like; her best friend (forgot her name??), the dad and their side and a few more but I think everything was very seamless.I also think Jamie was a little TOO PERFECT but besides the point…


I need like a moment. No 78 moments. I had like emotions. No like 56 emotions. I can’t even X 5678 okay?? THIS BOOK MADE ME WHOLE. It’s just so so IMPORTANT and so BEAUTIFUL and it’s exactly the kind of book YOU SHOULD BE READING RIGHT NOW.

Also please appreciate the cover even though there’s a massive jellyfish on it, not a starfish! IT IS STILL A BEAUTY AND AN AWE TO LOOK AT OKAY??




Akemi Dawn Bowman

StarfishKiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.


Let's Whisper

What book have you read with an Asian MC? Don’t you love amazing writing? What are some of your favorite ARTY characters? Are you excited to read Starfish? (you should be) Adding it to your TBR? Tell me!

(also sorry for posting a review on Tuesday. I wanted this review to be posted on its release day)

Ilsa - Edited

56 thoughts on “REVIEW: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman – Asian MC! Art Appreciation!! Magical Writing!!! (wow this just keeps on getting better)”

    1. Oh yes May’s review was so fantastic! Yes, I got an ARC of this, which is why I got to read it before publication and you should definitely try and read a copy. No! No mature or graphics stuff though I do think there were mentions of abuse I don’t want to spoil anything.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It makes me so happy to know you enjoyed this!! I’ve seen it around a lot lately and have been meaning to try it out myself but your awesome review just helped with the decision process even more 😀
    I love that it sends all the right messages and deals with self-love/anxiety themes. They are so important and don’t get enough rep these days… Well, not the good kind anyway. Kiko sounds like the loveliest MC ever and I can’t wait to dive in! I love slow burn romances as well so yay ^^
    Wonderful review, Ilsa ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YAY!!! I really REALLY hope you can read it and then just fangirl over it with me BECAUSE IT’S SO GOOD AND AMAZING AND AHHHH. Kiko is so sweet AND SHE NEEDS A HUG. Okay no like 696678765 BILLION HUGS. Come to think of it…I’m not much of a hugging person (and I don’t think Kiko is either bc social anxiety) SO LET’S JUST SEND CHOCOLATES HER WAY BECAUSE SHE NEEDS SO MUCH OF THEM BECAUSE SHE GOES THROUGH SO MUCH!!

      Liked by 1 person

        She already sounds like a favorite of mine and I haven't even read the book! You just made the whole thing sound so awesome, I'm having trouble keeping my expectations grounded xD
        I think I'll have some trouble putting up with all the bad stuff that happen to her but all stories need conflict, right? So I'll try and endure it…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yooo I’ve read so many good reviews about this book that I need it like yesterday. Why am I not reading it at the moment huh?? Why isn’t it in my hands this very second?? Also hello can I just say: COVER LOVE?! Look at that beautiful magestic cover with it’s beautiful magestic title (which I also love!!). Also diverseity representation and self love??? COULD THIS GET ANY BETTER?? Ok brb buying this pronto.


    1. YOU NEED IT LIKE 5 YEARS AGO OKAY? Sadly, it was only published today but let’s not delve into the minor details here. COVER LOVVVVEEE YESS. Like people like ‘but that’s a jellyfish’ and i’m just like NO NO.. WHO EVEN CARES ABOUT THESE MINOR DETAILS. Look how pretty ❤ Another reason to buy this book tbh. AND YES DIVERSITY!! and self-love!! NO I THINK THIS BOOK HAS REACHED THE ULTIMATE LEVEL OF AMAZINGNESS.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This book sounds SO incredible – it sounds exactly like the kind of book I would give a BILLLION STARS to, because I’d love it so much. I’m having so many high expectations right now, but… after reading your beautiful review and these stunning quotes, how can I NOT be?!! I can’t wait to buy it, I need to buy it soon ahah. Thank you for this gorgeous review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. IF I COULD GIVE 56789876545678987654 STARS TO THIS BOOK, trust me, I WOULD. I hope the hype doesn’t spoil it for you though!! It’s written so beautifully (and my review…beautiful. IM CRYING) and I JUST WANT YOU TO LOVE IT SO MUCH!! Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate you and your eyeballs okay?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I really hope it won’t – I feel like I’m going to LOVE it now, but I hope my expectations will settle down a bit by the time I get to this book… otherwise I could be disappointed haha 🙂
        You’re welcome, THANK YOU for your fabulous posts, it’s always my pleasure to stop by!! ❤ ❤


  4. Okay so like I need this book??????? LIKE NOW. OKAYRDRHV JRH SO I’VE SEEN IT EVERYWHERE AND mermer it looks amazing. I love your review. ew her mother sounds horrible I could just *strangles her*. But awww Jamie sounds so sweeeetttt awww I want this book even more nowwwwww!! Great review Ilsa.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This has been on my TBR for a long time and I completely forgot that it was being released this week.Ughh! But I can’t wait ot read this.I have heard so many good things and seeing this review just made me even more excited.


  6. As someone who suffers from Social Anxiety this review really makes me want to give this book a try. Just reading you squeal about it makes me feel like I’m going to love it. I’m SO glad that Asians are getting representation. I’m a little sceptical of the perfection of Jamie, but the soft romantic side of me thinks I’ll absolutely melt reading this.
    And WOW that cover is breathtaking. Thanks for reviewing I’m looking for something to get me out of my book slump this might just be it!!


    1. OMG, yes!! I think it would really
      1) get you out of your reading slump because it’s literally so easy to read
      2)and yes the Social Anxiety rep IS JUST WOW!!

      I really really hope you pick this one up – I just KNOW you’ll enjoy it so so so much and the romance is very on the side? So like I honestly didn’t mind to be honest.


  7. I need this book in my lifeeeee. It has soo many things i can identify with and *gasp* probably even the mother issue. I sounds that it leans towards the empowering side, not the “ohh sad tragic misery of life” side, so yeap, I want that, a story with my issues saying “heeeyy lookie, me too and guess what? there is a bright side”.
    Oh, what you were asking about the Artsy characters, I like Xander from antisocial by Heidi Cullinan :3


      1. Hiyaa! Yes I diiid! I read it from Riveted books and then I participated on Akemi’s drawing contest and won a signed hardcover 😍😍 It was fabulous indeed 😁


  8. Starfish sounds so GOOD!! I’m definitely going to be adding it to my TBR list now, it just seems to keep growing now haha..
    Also I love the MC’s name and the idea behind the whole story, it just sounds so beautiful!


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