Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

I have an apology to make to the YA community. I used to think that YA was overrated, dumbed-down, fluffy teen angst. It’s not. Some of the best books I have read lately have fallen under the YA marketing category-I do still believe that’s all it is-and I want to throw them into the hands of every adult patron who comes into the Library. The latest title to completely captivate me is Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman. I read this at the kitchen table, in one setting, with my husband literally knocking down the walls around me. Home renovation is fun for one of us.

Rumi Seto’s entire life changes in an instant. Her best friend and sister Lea dies next to her in a tragic car accident. Overcome with grief and sadness, her mother sends her away to her aunt’s house in Hawaii for the rest of the summer. Feeling lonely and abandoned, Rumi struggles with the basic of tasks-getting out of bed, showering, eating. Her Aunt has never had children and her already strained relationship with her niece is made even more volatile as the two try to navigate life around each other.

Her new next door neighbor, a handsome and charming surfer named Kai, tries to become her friend and show her the sights of Hawaii but Rumi isn’t ready. Without her sister and the music they wrote together, Rumi has lost both her heart and moral compass. Her other neighbor, an eighty year old grump named George Watanabe is only slightly more successful in forming a friendship with Rumi. Laying on his living room floor listening to old records provides Rumi with the closest thing to peace she can find.

It is through her new friendships and her music that slowly allow Rumi to find her way back to herself.

Reader friends-grab your tissues and read this book. It’s incredibly emotional and raw. Rumi’s character already struggles with friendships and understanding how to react to social situations. Her relationship with her sister is what gave her life direction. When her mom ships her off to Hawaii, the betrayal and abandonment is more than she can handle and I spent most of this story crying my eyes out because she feels so lost.

Akemi Dawn Bowman writes her characters with such love-each character felt so real. I’d love for their to be a sequel to this story so I know everyone is living their best life. I really liked the way the author wrote about Rumi’s attempts to figure herself out. Rumi was very aware that she thought differently than others but even with that awareness, the way she view relationships really troubled her. Trying to decipher her sexuality was incredibly frustrating to her and the conversations about sexuality being fluid were really well written. This story really covers a broad range of difficult topics-death, grief, relationships, sexuality, mental health, abandonment. While that seems to be a lot of heaviness, it’s also full of hope.

I really enjoyed this one and I’m looking forward to see what the author puts out next.

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