But some people are just starfish – they need everyone to fill the roles that they assign.
Kiko’s story is so tough to read at points – not only due to her childhood trauma, but also due to her struggles as a biracial young woman in a rural town. Her father is Japanese and her mother is white, and her mother has spent Kiko’s entire life shaming her half-Asian appearance, name, and culture.
She once told me she wished she had given me and my brothers more “traditional” names because she was “kind of over the Japanese thing.” You know, because being Asian is a trend or something.
On top of growing up with a narcissistic mother who has essentially ruined any chance at self-esteem Kiko ever had, she is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and suffers from extreme social anxiety. As someone who has suffered from severe anxiety my entire life, Kiko’s mental health struggles are portrayed in a way that I related so hard to.
Normal people don’t need to prepare for social interactions. Normal people don’t panic at the sight of strangers. Normal people don’t want to cry because the plan they’ve processed in their head is suddenly not the plan that’s going to happen.
While I will say that this book comes with serious trigger warnings for childhood sexual abuse, familiar abuse/neglect, and mental health illnesses, the story is simultaneously just as touching as it is heartbreaking. I spent the entire story rooting for Kiko because I wanted so badly to see her heal and move forward in life. Akemi drew such a beautiful story, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA contemporaries and is not going to be too upset by the aforementioned triggers.
While this book does also involve a romance subplot, I was pleased to find that it rarely felt like the forefront of the story; first and foremost, Starfish is the progression of an incredible young woman learning how to accept herself for the first time.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!