Summer Bird Blue

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
Summer Bird Blue Book Poster Image
Emotional novel deals with death, grief, and abandonment.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Good introduction to Hawaiian culture, food, phrases, including Hawaiian pidgin.

Positive Messages

Respect your elders. It's OK to ask for help and talk to someone about your mental health. It's OK to question your sexuality. Don't let anger allow you to push people away. Honor your loved ones by living your life to the fullest. Take care of your friends and family, and support their decisions. Don't be so quick to judge someone.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lea is kind, thoughtful, generous, and referred to as "the good daughter" and "the good sister" by Rumi. Rumi often comes across as cold, cruel, but as she starts to heal she learns to forgive. Rumi's mom loves her daughters unconditionally, finds strength to seek help for depression. Aunty Ani is always there to love, support Rumi no matter how many times she lashes out. Kai doesn't walk on eggshells around Rumi, treats her as if she isn't grieving. He can sometimes be insensitive, but he's always honest with her. Mr. Watanabe helps Rumi find her way back to music. He offers advice about coping with grief, forgiveness, and reminds her that living life to the fullest is the best way to honor the loved ones we've lost. 


Lea dies in a car crash. A character almost drowns in the ocean, another gets into a fistfight with his father. A character punches a car's windshield and has to get stitches. 


Characters kiss. Rumi questions her sexuality throughout the book.


Strong language includes variations of "hell," "f--k," "s--t," "douche," "a--hole," and "bastard."


One character has 20,000 followers on Instagram. Some of the popular singers mentioned include Lorde, Adele, Regina Spektor, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Akemi Dawn Bowman's Summer Bird Blue is an emotional story about Rumi Seto, who learns how to cope with her grief after her younger sister, Lea, dies in a car accident. The story offers a good introduction to Hawaiian culture and also includes phrases in Hawaiian pidgin. Rumi questions her sexuality throughout the story, especially after she kisses another character. Strong language includes variations of "hell," "f--k," "s--t," "douche," "a--hole," and "bastard." A character almost drowns in the ocean and another gets into a fistfight with his father. There are plenty of positive messages about family, friendship, and forgiveness, but parents should be prepared to talk about the story's heavy themes of death, grief, and abandonment.

User Reviews

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Adult Written byvrenzy g. September 16, 2018

must read

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What's the story?

Rumi Seto loves two things: music and her younger sister, Lea. She might not have all the answers to life's questions, but she's positively sure that writing music with Lea is the best thing in the world. But when Lea dies in a car accident and she's sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii, Rumi doesn't know how to begin coping with her grief, and she's angry at her mom for abandoning her. Without music, Lea, or her mom, Rumi turns to her aunt's neighbors: Kai, the cute surfer with a laid-back attitude, and Mr. Watanabe, an 80-year-old man who's dealt with his own tragedies. With their help, Rumi just might be able to rediscover her love of music, finish writing the SUMMER BIRD BLUE song she was working on with Lea, and find a way to repair her relationship with her mom.

Is it any good?

Akemi Dawn Bowman's emotional novel provides an intense, realistic depiction of survivor's guilt while powerfully reminding teens that they don't have to grieve alone. With diverse, well-developed characters, vivid descriptions of life in Hawaii, and positive mental health messages, readers will be captivated by Rumi's journey toward healing. The poignant memories scattered throughout Summer Bird Blue demonstrate Rumi's deep love for her sister and the complicated relationship she shares with her mom. As Rumi forms eye-opening friendships with Kai and Mr. Watanabe, and realizes that music will help her keep Lea's memory alive, teens will understand the importance of family, friendship, and forgiveness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the heavy themes of death, grief, and abandonment in Summer Bird Blue. How do these issues affect the characters' mental health, especially Rumi's mom? Is it important for kids -- even those who have never lost a loved one -- to read Rumi's story? Why or why not? 

  • Do you think music helps people deal with their problems? How do you cope with issues? Who can you turn to? What help is out there?

  • How do the characters demonstrate compassion and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories and grief tales

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