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2018 William C. Morris Award Finalist

A New York Public Library 2017 Best Book for Teens

Scottish Teenage Book Prize Finalist

2020 Winner of the MéMO Award for Best Teen Novel

One of Cosmopolitan’s “26 of the Best Books to read this Summer 2018”

 A Junior Library Guild Selection

Paste Magazine’s Best YA Debut Novel of the Year

A TAYSHAS Top Ten Book for 2019

Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist

 2019 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award Nominee

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Cover designed by Sarah Creech

A gorgeous and emotionally resonant debut novel about a half-Japanese teen who grapples with social anxiety and her self-absorbed mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school.

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.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves. Published by Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster in 2017. 

content warnings
cw: emotional abuse, reference to sexual abuse, suicide attempt, childhood trauma


United Kingdom – Ink Road

France – Pocket Jeunesse

Latin America – V&R

Spain – Anaya


“In an empowering novel that will speak to many mixed-race teens, debut author Bowman has created a cast of realistically complex and conflicted characters. . . . Through art, Kiko gains a voice and finally understands that she is worthy, desirable, and talented.” — ★ Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Bowman evokes Kiko’s quiet hurt, pain, and frustration with breathtaking clarity, all the while reinforcing the narrative with love and hope. The story will resonate deeply with readers who have experienced abuse of any kind, or who have been held back by social anxiety. Starfish is a stunningly beautiful, highly nuanced debut.” — ★ Booklist, starred review

“A deep and engaging story that will not only entertain but also may encourage readers to live their best lives.” — School Library Journal

“Vividly captures the identity struggles of a biracial young adult searching to find her place in two worlds.” — BCCB

“Bowman gives a powerful voice to silenced victims of sexual abuse through Kiko, whose transformation from meek and afraid into powerful and strong is incredibly moving.” — VOYA

“Dazzling.” — Bustle

“One of the most compelling reads of the year.” — Paste Magazine

“This book is a gem.” — BookRiot

“Utterly uplifting.” — Stylist Magazine

“A brave, unfiltered look into a young girl’s attempt to find herself in the face of abuse and rejection. It will break your heart and then piece it back together again.” – Sandhya Menon, New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi

“Akemi Dawn Bowman’s quietly dazzling debut novel gave me the sensation of looking into a mirror. This story is a knockout, at once an incisive portrait of family dysfunction, a nuanced depiction of Asian-American adolescence, and an artist’s vibrant coming-of-age—a story so specific as to be universal. Brimming with confessional intimacy and the furious strength of empowerment, Starfish feels like the ache of being lost and the relief of finding home.” — Riley Redgate, author of Noteworthy and Seven Ways We Lie

“A vibrant, complex and heartfelt story about finding your place in a sharp-edged world that never makes it easy.” — Kelly Loy Gilbert, author of Conviction and Picture Us in the Light

“My heart went out to Kiko and her artist’s soul. She’s fragile and resilient at the same time—broken, but determined to put herself back together. Reading Kiko’s story is like paging through a sketchbook of her soul; the images and emotions are startling and lovely, full of longing, loneliness, and ultimately, hope.” — Misa Sugiura, author of It’s Not Like It’s a Secret

“A bold and daring debut!” — Meg Eden, author of Post-High School Reality Quest

"Un roman parfois dur, mais qui se lit d'une traite, et qui met en lumière les relations familiales toxiques. Touchant, poignant, on ne peut que s'attacher aux personnages."  MéMO Awards on STARFISH (L’Esquisse du bonheur) winning Best Teen Novel 2020


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UK edition published by Ink Road (April 5th, 2018)
French edition published by Pocket Jeunesse (June 6th, 2019)
Latin America edition published by V&R
Spanish edition published by Anaya (March 5th, 2020)
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