Review: Starfish

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 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.

Okay so there are, like, a hundred layers of intrigue to this novel, and it was really fantastic and complex. I will be digging into a few of them, as well as the specifics of why I adored it so much. But, tl;dr, this was really worth the read, and gives some insight into some very real issues in our culture and just, the world, however cliché they may seem.

So, to start, my favorite part of this story was the way they dealt with the MC having anxiety issues. Now, this was not the focus of the novel, and her anxiety seemed to stem (at least partly) from some of the other difficulties in her life. However, I did really appreciate how the story approached it. The MC would suffer from anxiety in social situations, as well as just really in any sort of relationship. It was a very realistic approach to an anxious POV; she was clearly struggling but she wasn’t self aware as to why, and it wasn’t her main focus. It was exceptionally real.

In addition, we had the dynamic of people around her experiencing her anxiety. We had a taste of many reactions–those who were annoyed or inconvenienced by her panic attacks, those who were frustrated with her overthinking but still trying to be patient, and those who were just flat out oblivious. We had a bit of everything, which added an even more realistic layer to the mental health issues approached in this novel. As I said, this was the focus of the novel, but the approach that was used was really fascinating, and probably my favorite aspect of the novel.

On the other side, the plot itself was very dynamic. It was captivating, and every sub plot really seemed to add to the character arc that was developing in the novel. It was all connected, and resulted in a very cohesive and interesting story. There were bits that were just a bit… cheesy and cliché, but overall, the dynamics and stories that were being shown seemed very realistic and down to earth. I was very impressed with how this book showed the reader some exceptionally complex and heavy issues, while still keeping the book light and intriguing overall. That probably won’t make much sense without reading the story, BUT I am impressed nonetheless.

Overall, this was a great story. There was some heavy material covered, so I hesitate to recommend this to younger audiences. Nothing explicit, but there is some upsetting content (one character suffers PTSD related to a sexual assault which is not graphically described, but is disturbing nonetheless; there is emotional abuse and various descriptions of unsettling scenarios, etc.). However, this book covered the kind of upsetting content that is important for people to read, in my opinion. It dealt with the issues in a very classy way, but it still may have been too serious for younger teens.

4 out of 5 stars.


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