Starfish Book Review (and blog tour!)

A special thank you to Rich in Variety for providing me with an ARC of Starfish.

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, Kikoprefers 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

CW: ableism, aromisia, mental illness, child abuse, sexual abuse, sexual assault, suicide

After much consideration, I dropped my original rating to 1 star. This book is extremely dangerous, and the ratings it’s receiving are uncritical and harmful. Readers need to be aware of how dangerous this book is before they read it. 

Rating: ⭐️

Short Review: Starfish is a tale rife with culture, self-exploration, and cute romance. Despite the excellent character development, beautiful writing and formatting, and excellent messages on racism, the story also paints a very ableist image that boosts one experience at another’s expense.

Long Review: Warning – May Contain Spoilers

Continue reading “Starfish Book Review (and blog tour!)”

“Shadowhouse Fall” Book Review

Sequel to Shadowshaper Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light — an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new, Sierra and Shadowhouse are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds… or risk losing them all.

CW: ableism, panic attacks, police brutality, Baker Acting

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Short Review: Older had a vision for this book, and he made it happen. The writing is deliberate in the way that it continues to develop the world of the Shadowshapers while also tackling modern, real world struggles. He fleshes out his characters, envelops the reader in a world of magic, and still makes time for some serious, much-needed activism.

Long Review: Warning – May Contain Spoilers

The Good

This 👏🏽 Story 👏🏽 Is 👏🏽 Woke. Given that this is a story about a bunch of black (and Afro-Latinx) kids running around the streets of New York, Older had a lot to work with, but he absolutely made the most of it. The story conquers the world of police brutality, the struggles of racism, calls out white complacency, and even gives a shout out to black figures like Trayvon Martin. This story speaks VOLUMES, and if you’re looking for something that is both incredibly entertaining and also incredibly powerful, this is the book for you.

The writing in this novel was world’s beyond Shadowhsaper. Older brought his A-game in terms of description, action, and pacing. He takes this book as a chance to fully flesh out some characters who were left a little dry in book one and really tug on some heartstrings.

This is that urban fantasy book that has you laughing while you shiver. The magic is enthralling, and the dialogue is hilarious. You’ll find yourself engrossed as you flip from one emotional extreme to another.

The Bad

I was not feeling the love triangle. At all. The relationship between Robbie and Sierra felt a little forced to me in book one, but I was looking forward to seeing how it would smooth out in book two. Eesh. Not even a little.

On top of the rocky, and kind of awkwardly unnecessary Robbie drama was the newly introduced love triangle with Juan’s friend Anthony. I just couldn’t get into it. Nothing about the relationship felt organic or well-drawn out to me, and while Anthony was a mostly likeable character, his relationship with Sierra felt about as convincing as his panic attacks (next section).

The Problematic

The story struggles with a good amount of ableism. While there are some issues regarding mental hospitals and patients that seemed to be handled relatively well, the story was still rife with casual ableism and ableist slurs like “maniac”.

Other issues came in the form of Anthony’s panic attacks. When he entrusts this information to Sierra, the two discuss it in a way that I thought was very mental health inclusive. However, this sensitivity is the last you’ll see through to the end of the novel. We’ve got plenty of issues like Sierra “not telling anyone about his panic attacks” while being super obvious and talking about his “condition”. We have her failing to respond to the fact that he’s having a panic attack after promising to be there only to show up and for the whole scene to devolve into “sexy times”.

More than anything, though, Anthony’s anxiety seemed to be a tool to make his relationship with Sierra more convincing. His entrusting this information to her (even though he barely knows her and has only told like four people) is basically the only glue keeping their relationship together, and several times throughout the novel, this knowledge is used to either entice or berate Sierra and draw more attention to an otherwise lackluster couple.


Overall, Shadowhouse Fall was one of my favorite reads of the year. Despite a couple of hiccups in terms of mental health and romance, the story is colorful, powerful, and a surefire sign that Older’s writing just gets better with age (buh dum tsss).

I read an ARC of this book. It releases September 12, 2017.


“We Are the Ants” Book Review

Henry Denton is the unpopular kid in school known as “space boy” because he’s constantly abducted by aliens. When the aliens give him a chance to save the world by pressing a button, he’s torn on what to do, but really, he’s leaning toward letting the world die.

CW: Homomisia, bimisia, ableism, racism, abuse, assault, miscarriages, suicide, self-harm, bullying, amisia, rape
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Short Review:

The story was cute, unique, quite deep. It read in a more literary fashion and had a strong narrative voice. It was unnecessarily long-winded and tried to be a bit “edgier” than necessary. Also, there was some fun diversity, and then some stuff that was handled not so well. Overall, though, a fine, mostly contemporary read with some interesting turns, a very somber mood, and lots of introspection.

Long Review: Warning – May Contain Spoilers

The Good

Henry’s voice is strong throughout the whole story, and to be honest, it’s a voice I relate to. Henry is heavily depressed. His boyfriend (who was one of like three people who actually cared about him) committed suicide, and now he’s left to navigate this strange world without him. All in all, Henry is a cynical, condescending asshole, and I really connected to that (particularly from my high school days).

The characters were interesting and they all felt real. None of them were really great people, but they all held a lot of humanity.

There were also a lot of things handled well in terms of diversity. We had a realistic portrayal of Alzheimer’s, depression, and suicide. We had a girl baby getting a blue bedroom. We had two characters asking each other for consent before engaging in sexual activity. All of these were refreshing and much needed in YA.

The ending is vague and leaves a lot of stuff unanswered, and while I know most people hate this, I actually really liked how it was handled. I know a story did well if it makes me not care that my questions are unanswered.

The Bad

The story was way too long. This whole book could have been condensed into a hundred pages shorter and it would have had everything you needed. There was also a lot of repetition, particularly involving Henry’s thoughts about Jesse. Yes, it makes sense for him to be constantly thinking about Jesse and contemplating the reasons behind his suicide, but it really wasn’t the sort of thing that needed its own scene five+ times throughout the book. Because these scenes had next to no action, we find ourselves just drowning in Henry’s guilt, which really made the story drag.

The Problematic

This story was particularly hard to read because for everything it did well, it did something else poorly. We’ve got stuff ranging from casual ableism to the “repressed gay is a bullying asshole” trope to an unnecessary rape/sexual assault scene. This book is ownvoices for gay rep, so the exploration of this trope was within the author’s lane, but it’s one of those tropes that honestly just rubs me wrong.

We also have things like bimisia and fatmisia, which can be justified when considering the nature of the MC (a condescending asshole), but the amount of ists and isms and other problematic content throughout the story starts to weigh on you, and I had to question a few times whether the author did them on purpose or if he just got lucky. The nature of the content wasn’t enough to discredit the rest of the book, but it was enough to make me rather uncomfortable while reading it.


It took me a while to get through this one, but overall, I did enjoy it. There were a lot of interesting takes in here and I did feel represented by some of the rep. Be careful going into this one, though. Don’t take the content warnings lightly, and while I’ll probably read for from Hutchinson, I admit I’ll be a little on edge to see how he handles his content in the future.