Book Review: Starfish, by Akemi Dawn Bowman

*TW: anxiety, panic disorder, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, narcissism*

By all means is this one of my favorite books of this year. Perhaps the favorite.

I’ve been told in the past that I shouldn’t talk about mental health online- that it’s too personal, that some current or future employer could see it and think…differently of me for it. But I don’t think there’s any way to review this book properly without talking about mental health- nor could I avoid reviewing it. There are very few books that portray anxiety as this did, and while, yes, I was triggered, I was also… comforted, reading it. While I am not biracial, not a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, my parents are not narcissists, and I am not reeling from being rejected from my chosen university, the one little fact of seeing anxiety rep I could relate to was incredible.

Kiko’s story was told so poignantly my heart still aches. The descriptions of her drawings and paintings at the end of each chapter packed so much emotion into one or two sentences that I, honestly, feel raw. Her plot arc was beautifully written; it’s precisely the kind of plot arc I can only hope to be able to write someday. The romance wasn’t forced, rather it flowed smoothly and I adored it far too much. Everything broke my heart and I’m still recovering.

Starfish was beautifully heartbreaking. What more can I say? It’s not the kind of book you read and forget about the next day. It sticks with you and isn’t about to leave anytime soon.

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