Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 11th 2018
Source: ARC received for review
Star Quotient: ★★★★
Kiss Factor: NA
Amazon - The Book Depository

Akemi Dawn Bowman's debut, Starfish, is one of the best books I have ever read. It captured anxiety and teen emotions so brilliantly so I couldn't wait to read everything and anything by her. Summer Bird Blue, her sophomore novel, was just as gorgeous. Be prepared to be emotionally eviscerated with this one.

I'm not quite sure how Bowman does it, but her characters always feel real to me. She is a star at meticulously fleshing out her characters in such a way that makes them pop off the pages. In Summer Bird Blue, we are lucky enough to meet Rumi, whose story made every corner of my heart ache. To Rumi, her sister Leah and music are her whole life. When Leah dies in a car accident, her whole life is shattered. Throughout most of Summer Bird Blue, Rumi was grieving her sister and simmering in anger as she felt like her mom had abandoned her with her aunt in Hawaii. It was heartbreaking and Bowman made me feel every emotion that Rumi experienced. I'm not going to lie, this book was not always easy to read, but it's gorgeously written so it's also simultaneously hard to put down. Her anger, her sadness, and her guilt all hit me right in the heart.

In Hawaii, Rumi also met two people who slowly helped her move on a journey towards healing. Mr. Watanabe, her 80-year old neighbor with a yappy dog, was possibly my favorite. He was a grumpy old man who did not hold back his thoughts. He and Rumi form a special bond as a result of their losses and it made me happy that she had someone like him to help navigate the complicated time in her life. She also met a boy, Kai, who was just a breath of fresh air. He was kind to her and became an important friend. He also helped Rumi discover more about her identity, something that she struggled with quite a bit throughout Summer Bird Blue. This was the first book that I have read that depicted an aromatic and asexual teen. It was interesting to see this perspective of a young woman who really had no interest in dating or sex, but was also confused as to why she did not have those feelings. Kudos to Bowman for the great representation.

As you can imagine with a story like Summer Bird Blue, family was an important theme. Like all the other elements in this book, it was also deftly handled. Rumi's relationship with Leah was one of the best siblings relationships I have ever come across. There was jealousy, pride, admiration and love between these girls and these were all depicted through flashbacks and Rumi's thoughts. The intricacies of her relationship with her mother were also beautifully touched upon throughout Summer Bird Blue. Then there was her aunt, who she barely knew growing up, but who became her pillar while her mother was away. I could just go on and on about how great all the relationships were in this book!

I can't recommend Summer Bird Blue highly enough. Yes, it's a tough story, but it's so worth it and I am really happy that teens have this book. At this point, I'm ready for more books by Akemi Dawn Bowman - it's going to be torturous having to wait for her next release!

What are some books you thought tackled grief really well?
Let me know in the comments below!

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