Review: Summer Bird Blue

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

My review of this is going to be an unfortunatly unpopular opinion, I think. I was a huge fan of Bowman’s Starfish last year, and sadly this book fell a bit short for me.

The main plot of this novel surrounding the MC, Rumi, dealing with the grief following her little sister’s sudden death in car accident. Now, I am all for novels that show the raw, real emotions of their characters, and this story did do that. I loved Bowman’s other novel mainly for it’s very interesting and real depictions of a teen dealing with anxiety. However, one of my favorite things about how it was depicted is that the anxiety was not the character; the character just had anxiety. I don’t know if that makes sense, but hopefully it does.

Anyways, it felt like in this novel, Rumi was her grief. There was very little in this story that told us anything about Rumi except that she was angry with the world, her mother, and, most of all, herself, all because of her sister’s death. And, again, this is a very accurate and raw depiction of grief, but it was hard to read as I knew little of the girls or their situation except for death.

There was a short chapter in the beginning, and small flashbacks throughout, depicting the sisters before the accident. However, most of these memories centered around Rumi being a ‘bad’ sister, as she believed she had been, and were still negative and hard to read overall. I feel if there had been more of a connection with both characters established before the death and the dealing with grief, it would have been more impactful. Without it, it just made Rumi seem very anrgy, and I couldn’t connect with why, as it just seemed that she was an angry person already.

Overall, I enjoyed Bowman’s use of dialects, and her overall style. There was some very interesting representation and plot lines in this book surronding identity that I thought were really cool, and I wished they had been developed a little bit more. I really appreciated what this book was trying to do, but I don’t think it dealt with mental health, grief, etc., as well as Starfish or other YA novels I have read.

2 out of 5.


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