summer bird blue – akemi dawn bowman | review

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Published September 11th 2018 by Simon Pulse
Genre: contemporary, young adult, lgbt, mental illness, ownvoices

rating: ★★★★★


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.

˚*❋ ❋ ❋*˚˚*❋ ❋ ❋*˚˚*❋ ❋ ❋*˚˚*❋ ❋ ❋*˚˚*❋ ❋ ❋*˚˚*❋ ❋ ❋*˚

“Sometimes you have to break things. Sometimes you need to smash a window or two before you start to feel better.”

summer bird blue got me so emotional. i was bawling because it made me imagine how utterly shattered and destroyed i would be if anything were to happen to my own sister. akemi dawn bowman’s writing and her ability to craft this masterpiece had blown me away. i couldn’t think of anything else after i finished the book. the author did a fantastic job in portraying lea and rumi’s friendship. there were good and bad times. they fought and played; they cried and laughed. that’s how siblings are.

rumi’s journey into healing and acceptance, through all the grief, was admirable. there was so much hurt, pain, agony and suffering. after her sister’s death, rumi was left all alone in hawaii with her aunt. she started having doubts about whether she was a good sister or best friend to lea. unfortunately, being left alone in a foreign place without her mother magnified rumi’s survivor guilt. maybe she should’ve been the one who died because, to her, everyone loved lea the most. on top of her sadness, rumi is also feeling angry at the world for taking her sister away. she’s pissed at her mother for not being there for her. she’s mad at the whole situation and at herself. as she slowly healed and listened to the people around her, like mr. watanabe and her aunt, her hatred for the world gradually disappeared.

other than struggling with lea’s death, rumi is faced with identity issues. for all her life, rumi has never experienced romantic feelings for others, and she finds kissing and dating unnecessary. she doesn’t understand what’s going on. all she knew is that her disinterest in romantic relationship isn’t typical, and she’s scared because she thinks something is wrong with her. i thought the aromatic and/or asexual representation was done well through rumi’s character. rumi is able to explore and discover her sexuality without having the “romance cures all” scenario happen to her.

“Ghosts no stay here.” He waves at the ukulele, then at the piano. “Dey stay here.” He presses a finger to his heart. 

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