A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
How emotional abuse and sexual abuse affect your sense of self-worth. Also information about social anxiety, how media affects kids' body image, and Japanese culture.
Beauty doesn't come in one mold. Find the courage to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. Learn how to be independent. You can't live to please a "starfish" -- someone who always has to be the center of attention -- especially if that person's happiness is at your expense.
Positive Role Models
Although her social anxiety and self-esteem issues make Kiko believe she's unworthy of love, she learns to love herself and embrace her Japanese heritage. She breaks free from her dysfunctional family environment and becomes independent. Emery and Jamie are great friends to Kiko. There are times where Kiko feels they've put her in awkward social situations, but they're gently pushing her to experience life. Hiroshi mentors Kiko and helps her grow as an artist. He and his family teach Kiko about Japanese culture and are also an example of a loving, supportive family environment. Kiko's mom leads Kiko to believe that her Japanese features are ugly and undesirable. She also makes Kiko believe that she isn't talented and is wasting her time trying to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.
Violence & Scariness
Kiko's mom is emotionally abusive and incapable of unconditional love. A family member tries to commit suicide. Kiko's uncle groped her leg and masturbated while she was sleeping.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teens kiss. Mentions of adults having an affair. Kiko's uncle groped her leg and masturbated while she was sleeping.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Insults include "stupid," "idiot," and "crappy." There's also one use of "f---ing."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Kiko's mom finds beauty only in the white celebrities she sees in the media and always tells Kiko that her Asian features are ugly. Brands and celebrities mentioned include Abercrombie & Fitch, Batman, Captain America, Wilco, The Smiths, Taylor Swift, James Franco, Harry Potter, Converse, Legend of Zelda, and more.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink at a family celebration. Underage drinking and beer pong at house parties. Teens smoke cigarettes.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Starfish is a heartbreaking yet empowering coming-of-age story about Kiko Himura, a biracial 17-year-old girl who uses art to explore her identity and chart her journey to self-acceptance and independence. Emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect feed into Kiko's extreme social anxiety and self-esteem issues. One of her family members tries to commit suicide. Teens drink and smoke cigarettes at house parties. Mild insults include "stupid," "idiot," and "crappy," and one use of "f---ing."
Is It Any Good?
Akemi Dawn Brown's heartbreaking debut novel powerfully portrays the harmful effects of childhood abuse and an empowering journey toward healing. Although it's difficult to read the cruel words from a narcissistic mother incapable of unconditional love and sometimes frustrating to see how Kiko's social anxiety holds her back, Starfish sadly shows how abuse fosters feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness. Through her emotional internal monologues and the gorgeous art descriptions at the end of each chapter, readers will understand Kiko's struggles and triumphs as she slowly breaks free from her dysfunctional family environment.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Books That Feature Characters Living with Mental Illness
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate