eARC Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

You guys! Earlier this month I got the super exciting email that I had been approved for an eARC of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s debut novel Starfish (which released in the US this past September and releases in the UK on April 5th!) and I couldn’t wait to finally read this book too, because quite a few of my blogging friends really loved this book too!

If you’re curious to see what I thought, just keep on reading! 😉


starfish Plot

In Akemi Dawn Bowman’s debut novel Starfish, we follow 17-year-old Kiko who is days away from graduation and impatiently waiting for news from her dream art school Prism, when her abusive uncle moves back in with Kiko’s family, her childhood best friend Jamie suddenly shows back up and Kiko’s life takes a direction she didn’t expect. 

Prism suddenly isn’t going to happen anymore, Kiko lives in constant fear of what her uncle might do, so when things get really bad, Jamie suggests Kiko should come to California with him, tour art schools there and decide what she wants to do with her life. We then follow Kiko and Jamie to California and experience this new life and everything it has to offer alongside Kiko.


I have to say, when I got into this book, I had absolutely no idea what to really expect from it. I hadn’t looked at the actual synopsis in a little while because I wanted to go into this as blindly as possible and experience the story as it unfolded before my own eyes and I have to say, that was a fantastic decision!

Akemi Dawn Bowman really drew me into this book from the beginning and I would find myself reading a hundred pages and not even realizing that many pages had gone by!

I also absolutely adored where Bowman took the story and characters in this book and I want to give her the highest of fives for the way she dealt with mental health issues in this book! It never once felt like there was a magical ‘cure’ for Kiko’s anxiety and instead, we get to see Kiko learn to deal and live with her anxiety.


I want to find self-worth without needing it to come from someone’s approval.

Kiko was such a brilliant character to get to know in Starfish and to see develop further and overcome some of the problems she faced early on in the book. And I loved the fact that the author really took the time to address what Kiko was feeling and that we had people who challenged those viewpoints and were able to show Kiko a different perspective on the things she had been dealing with all her life.

And while I, myself, couldn’t always relate to everything Kiko was going through – especially when it came to the fact that she was half-Japanese and the way her own mother would talk about beauty and where she put the focus of what beautiful meant, I could still relate to the fact that you need to see a variety of people of different shapes, sizes, skin tones, etc. to realize that beauty and what someone might consider beautiful is subjective.

I don’t have to be white to be beautiful, just like I don’t have to be Asian to be beautiful. Because beauty doesn’t come in one mold.

Honestly, that quote is so, so important and something I really wanted to make sure I remembered after finishing this book because it is so important for all of us out there to remember.


While I absolutely adored Kiko as a character, I constantly found myself wanting to just shake her mother and wake her up from whatever state she was in that made her such a horrible parent to Kiko and her brothers.

I don’t really have much to say about the side characters and some of it should be said because it’s all part of the overall story and something that you as a reader should experience as you read the book yourself, I think. But the one thing I do want to mention is that this book deals with abuse, both mental and sexual. Please be aware of this when you’re going into this book.


You guys, I feel like I keep repeating myself whenever I talk about the writing in contemporary novels because I always mention how easy it is to follow and how I have no problems reading a ton of pages without even realizing that I’ve done it – and that was definitely the case with Starfish too!

I ended up reading this book within probably about 24-ish hours this past weekend and that’s definitely something that’s only possible because the writing and storytelling were done so well in Starfish that I just didn’t want to stop reading even though the subject matter wasn’t as light and fluffy as my usual contemporary reads.


This review has basically been me telling you guys how much I adored Kiko and her story, which makes me think that it’s pretty obvious that I enjoyed this book – a lot, actually! If you follow me on Goodreads and/or Twitter, you might have seen my reading updates that I shared over there about how much I ended up loving this book and I would recommend this book so, so highly – if you are okay reading about the mental and sexual abuse, that is! 

Where To Get The Book

Amazon US | UK | DE / Barnes & Noble / Waterstones / Book Depository / Indigo

lets chat 1

How about you guys? Have you read Starfish already and if so, what did you think? What did you think of Kiko? Her mother? The way their relationship was portrayed? Let me know in the comments below!

And for those of you guys who haven’t read the book yet, do you have it on your never-ending TBR? Or are you going to add it to your TBR? Let me know!

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16 thoughts on “eARC Review: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

  1. I got this book as an e-ARC as well, but haven’t gotten to reading it yet! So I just skimmed over your review because I didn’t want to spoil myself 😛 Happy to see that you recommended it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I added this to my TBR for its beautiful cover but it has been garnering so much praise recently, I’m glad I had picked it up. Though, I haven’ read it yet but hopefully soon. Lovely review, Swetlana ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, Swetlana, I’m so happy you loved this one!! It means so much to me, since it’s opened my eyes to the struggles I went and still go through growing up as an Asian in a white society, and Kiko is one of the characters I most relate to. And the writing was truly beautiful! Great review. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh what a beautiful review, I am so happy you enjoyed this book so much, Swetlana ❤ I can't wait to read this one, it sounds exactly like my kind of story ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your Review! 💗 I have finally gotten around to readin Starfish as well and I really enjoyed it too 🙂 It was so easy to get sucked into the story and I related to Kiko and her anxiety a lot! I definitely have to get my own Review up on the blog soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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