Monday 20 May 2019

Book Review | Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Title: Summer Bird Blue
Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Publication Date: 4th April 2019 by Ink Road
Pages: 384
Format/Source: ARC via Netgalley
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Book Depository


Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

It's difficult to put into words how I felt about this book. It follows Rumi who has been shipped off to live with an aunt in Hawaii for the summer in the wake of her younger sister's death. We see her struggling to deal with her grief, her anger with her mother and her desire to fulfill a promise to her sister.

I struggled a lot with the character of Rumi. She's definitely not someone I could see myself being friends with in real life. She's an extremely jealous and judgemental person and it was hard to differentiate whether that was her way of masking her grief or just her genuine personality. As frustrating as these traits were to understand, it did excentuate how real Rumi's character was. A lot of the times protagonists are portrayed as incredibly normal people with a few flaws but generally with the best intentions and Rumi is definitely the opposite of that. She's not perfect at all and as difficult as it was to feel any connection with her character, I appreciate how refreshing it is to read about a character like Rumi.

The book handles complex issues very well though. The conversations about grief, depression and Rumi's confliction between moving on and not wanting to feel like she was simply forgetting her sister hit very close to home for me. Losing someone so close to you is incredibly difficult and so I could relate and understand Rumi's feelings about being left behind and not knowing how to move on with her life. I also have to point out the asexual/aromantic representation as Rumi struggles alot with understanding her sexuality and how she feels about not feeling romantically or sexually attracted to anyone and all the questions she doesn't have answers for. All these elements are very well written and I really enjoyed these aspects of the book.

I absolutely adored Kai though. He's such a sweet and understanding character and the perfect friend for Rumi. Even though he clearly likes her as more then a friend he never pushes her to feel the same way and respects the boundaries that she sets without any ultimatum. I also loved Mr Watanabe, her grumpy elderly next door neighbour, who helps Rumi to regain her love of music and understanding about grief. Lastly, I was enchanted by the Hawaiian setting and the many descriptions of delicious food. I've never been but it really does sound like paradise.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars (possibly a four but i'm still conflicted).

Read if you like: elderly mentors, complex issues such as grief and depression, difficult family relationships, characters on the aromantic spectrum/struggling with their sexuality.

* I received an ARC copy via Netgalley in return for my honest opinion.


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