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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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."
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What's the story?
In STARFISH, half-Japanese, half-white Kiko Himura feels like an outsider at home and at school because of her Asian features and extreme social anxiety. With graduation right around the corner, she can't wait to start classes at Prism, her dream art school in New York City. But after she's rejected by Prism and realizes she's stuck in Nebraska with her self-absorbed mom and sexually abusive uncle, Kiko jumps at the chance to tour art schools on the West Coast with her childhood best friend. With the help of a wise Japanese artist she meets in California and supportive friends, Kiko is finally able to prioritize her own happiness and mental health while learning to embrace the beauty in her Asian heritage.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the heavy theme of abuse in Starfish. Is it important for kids -- even those who have never had to deal with an abusive home life -- to read Kiko's story? Why or why not?
Do you think art helps people deal with their problems? How do you cope with issues? Who can you turn to or what help is out there?
Talk about diversity, Western standards of beauty, and the media's role in how people view body image. Who should decide what's beautiful? Do the same beauty standards apply everywhere in the world? Do magazines and celebs affect how you see yourself?
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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.