This review contains spoilers.
“But some people are just starfish – they need everyone to fill the roles that they assign. They need the world to sit around them, pointing at them and validating their feelings. But you can’t spend your life trying to make a starfish happy, because no matter what you do, it will never been enough.”
Published: 2018, by Ink Road.
Format: eBook/ARC from Netgalley
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Fiction, Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Contains: Mental illness, Sexual Assault, Depression/Anxiety, Anger, Racism, Attempted Suicide, Emotional Abuse
I received a copy of this book from Black & White Publishing through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
‘Starfish’ tells the story of Kiko Himura, a young artist devoted to her aspirations of attending Prism, her top art school. With a tough home life living with her emotionally abuse mother, she’s desperate to do whatever it takes to escape and live her dream life. However, after the return of her abusive uncle and a rejection letter, she feels as if her world is turned upside down. That’s when childhood friend, Jamie, makes an offer she simply can’t refuse; to move away with him in California. It’s there, that Kiko learns the importance of being brave.
I had high expectations for this book, reading numerous high reviews and being one of the most anticipated releases of the year. So, when I saw the beautiful cover on Netgalley, I couldn’t not request it. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
The protagonist, Kiko, was a joy to read; it’s impossible not to fall in love with her. Her strength throughout the novel was inspiring, following her life through numerous downfalls and the development of her character at the end was incredibly empowering. Kiko’s journey was simply wonderful. The portrayal of anxiety with her character was also brilliant, being one of the most accurate I’ve read in YA fiction for a long time. It was relatable, honest, and not glorifying in the slightest. Her character was aware that her health was a fault in her life, and made active attempts to rectify it throughout the story. ‘Starfish’ normalises mental illnesses and writes them in a educated way to encourage readers to overcome their own problems – to find strength like Kiko did.
One of my favourite things about this novel was Kiko and Jamie’s relationship; it was adorable. From the moment Jamie returned to the protagonist’s life, their relationship with another gradually progressed, rediscovering their childhood. Jamie’s support was beautiful, admitting he didn’t understand her struggles with anxiety, yet made constant attempts to comfort her throughout. Plus, the one time he made a rude remark about her health in an argument, he immediately rectified it by calling a ‘truce’. There was no further comments. Their relationship was healthy and heartwarming, with fun dialogue and an interesting history between them.
Overall, ‘Starfish’ is an empowering story of self-discovery and acceptance. It moves at a steady pace with short chapters, making it the perfect afternoon read.
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