Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Summer Bird Blue - Dawn Akemi Bowman

Summary: 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.
  (Summary and pic from

My Review:  I feel like I’m in the minority when I say this, but I really didn’t like this book that much. There were some things I really enjoyed—don’t get me wrong—but overall, I felt like it wasn’t the best book at delivering the message it set out to deliver.

First off, this is a sad book. Like really sad. It’s one of those tragic books that you just can’t imagine how the people are going to pull through, and yet they do, and it’s messy and not perfect but in the end it will hopefully get better with time. I appreciated that the book didn’t sugarcoat this. In fact, I think that it was easy to get tired of the main character’s brooding ways as well, and yet it was obvious that she was still grieving and that everyone should be given their own opportunity to grieve in the way they need to in order to heal. Once the funeral is over, it seems like everyone is just expected to go on and things return to normal. This may be the reality for the people on the outside, but for the people living it, it’s a lot more complicated than that. I think this book did a great job of helping the reader understand that we have to be aware of how different people grieve, so we can be supportive in the best way we know how, even if sometimes it’s not as helpful as we’d like it to be. We’re all just trying to do the best we can, right? I’d like to believe that.

Some of the characters in this book were really great. I really enjoyed the neighbor, Mr. Watanabe, and their relationship was great. It seemed a little unlikely, but I was okay to let that slide because I really did enjoy their interactions. There were other great characters as well, and I think that they felt authentic.

My reason for not loving the book is I felt like it had a message it wanted to deliver about asexuality and people who don’t necessarily have a sexual connection, but the book was very weak sauce in how it went about it. It even felt like maybe that actually wasn’t the point and the author just slipped that in at the last minute, which was also lame. If you’re going to make a statement and address an issue, especially one that is timely and many in your audience may be dealing with, just do it. None of this namby-pamby weirdness that ended up being confusing and an afterthought. I know there aren’t a lot of books out there addressing asexuality right now, and I feel like this book is getting credit for it just because it did address it, although it didn’t really address it that well. Just because you’re the only one doesn’t mean you’re good at it.

My other complaint about this book is it just wasn’t that interesting. You would think with all that was happening, it would have been more compelling, but it just wasn’t. It was actually a pretty slow read, which is unusual for me in JFic. I feel like I can take on a JFic book in a few days. This one felt like a slog, even though it wasn’t necessarily hard reading. It just wasn’t that interesting. I think it had all the components of a better book than it was, and it just didn’t come together in the end.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is language and some discussion of sex, but on par with the genre.

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