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.
Starfish was one of those books I felt raw after I read it. I highly recommend it, but the book can be trigger inducing. It touches on issues of childhood sexual abuse, attempted suicide, and emotional abuse. If you can read through all those harsh issues, its a great read. But it is a doozy. It will leave you feeling emotionally drained, but at the same time the book ends on a hopeful note.
One of the things I like best about Starfish is that it deals with an issue that is timely for all ages, when plans go array. Though, honestly, I wanted to shake Kiko for only applying to one school. And them not letting her know until a week or so before graduation seems a little over kill but…
I’m ignoring it.
There’s actually a lot of things where I sort of had to give a passing glance through throughout the book to enjoy it. A lot of easy passable coincidences that happened too easily for my liking, but it was easy to overlook when this book hit me at an emotional level.
The core of this book is Kiko’s growth, and that growth had to come directly from her and not anyone else in the book. She doesn’t have a savior. Yes, she does have help along the way, but ultimately its up to her to decide what to do with her life.
And I think that’s what I liked best about Starfish. I could ignore all the coincidences because in the end it wasn’t randomly meeting an old friend or finding a mentor that pulled Kiko up from her problems. It was herself, and while she had made progress she still had issues.
Admittedly, I did think some things were over the top. The mother characters depiction especially. Yes, I get she was a narcissist, but I can tell you from growing up with one that her mother seemed a little too extreme.
While some of the classic narcissist behavior was there, the mother was too obvious. Her gas lighting wasn’t that skillful and she didn’t come off remotely charming. The narcissist that I know can hide his true colors, and if you didn’t know him you would think he was this really outgoing, caring guy (which he’s not). With this character, everyone knew she was toxic, which isn’t exactly the way narcissists operate on. She is definitely a contender though for a Golden Charlie, if there ever was one. It amazes me that she was able to get custody, let alone full custody of these kids through the book. Everything was just so messed up on so many levels. Then again, I don’t know much (okay, anything) about Nebraska family law but I can’t seem it deviating two much from the two states that I do practice in.
I also found the romance in this book a little meh. I started out hating it, but in the end I grew found to it. Again, I think why I ended up liking it, was that it wasn’t the relationship that was saving the character from her problems but herself. After I realized that’s what was going to happen, AND they didn’t get together right away. I started liking the relationship more. Still though, I could’ve dealt without it and it wasn’t my favorite thing about the book at all.
In all I do recommend Starfish. There were some problems with it, but if I look over the coincidence make way for a plot twist, and while I did find the mother to character to be a bit on the extreme side, it was a worth while read. The character’s evolution throughout the story really made the book for me, and it’s an oddly empowering story. Again though, it is trigger inducing so if any of the above referenced themes bother you, you might want to considering at least going into this one with those things in mind.
Overall Rating: B+