Review – Summer Bird Blue

“Music is what makes up the single soul we share. I don’t think I’ll ever find another person in the entire world who understands me the way Lea does. “

– Akemi Dawn Bowman, Summer Bird Blue

I received this title from NetGalley through Ink Road Books prior to it’s release in exchange for my honest review.
Summer Bird Blue was published on the 4th of April, unfortunately I was unable to get this review out until now.

My overall rating for this book is that it deserves a strong 4/5 stars. I found it both heart breaking and heart warming. For the majority of my reading experience I was completely wrapped up in the story. In my opinion there are only two downfalls to this book, and even then they are minor and did not affect my general enjoyment.

To be clear, this review may contain thoughts and opinions that talk about spoiler-ish material. I will do my best to keep it spoiler free.

Rumi is the protagonist of the story. She spends her time writing and playing music with her younger sister, Lea. In the beginning of the story they are involved in a serious car accident that results in her younger sister dying. After the accident Lea is sent to Hawaii to stay with her Aunt Ani and is left feeling betrayed by her mother. This is where she meets and develops friendships with her Aunt’s neighbours – Kai and Mr. Watanabe – who attempt to help her come to terms with everything that has happened.

“Mr. Watanabe’s house smells like grass and old wood. I don’t know how anyone’s home could smell so much like a terrarium when there isn’t a plant in sight.”

– Akemi Dawn Bowman, Summer Bird Blue

There are four elements of Summer Bird Blue that I want to draw on for this review, the first being setting. The book sets itself up in Washington and quickly moves to Hawaii where it remains. As someone that only knows of American landscape through movies, tv shows, and other various media sources I found this portrayal beautiful and I truly felt transported to each location. Bowman has a knack for really using her descriptions to pull you in and sit you beside her characters, so that you experience exactly what they experience when they enter a new scene. This is one of the many reasons I found this story so compelling.

“…Kai’s eyes dip down because he already knows that I can’t make it through a single conversation without talking about Lea.”

– Akemi Dawn Bowman, Summer Bird Blue

The second element I’d like to mention is the plot. The plot of this particular story wasn’t action packed, there wasn’t a lot of movement for the characters. The majority of the book was spent inside Rumi’s head while she tried to work through her feelings after losing her sister Lea, rather than furthering an active plot. There were elements throughout the story that led Rumi on a few wild goose chases if you will. However, up until the halfway point it felt as though we were spinning around in circles inside Rumi’s head. I found it quite repetitive, which did at the time bring my reading enjoyment down. But in retrospect I can see that it was part of her story, and without it the plot would seem empty.

“Lea’s eyes always had that little bit of green in them, like seaweed left on a stretch of golden sand. Mine are plain brown, like chocolate ice cream without any toppings.”

– Akemi Dawn Bowman, Summer Bird Blue

The third dish to be served today is one I like to call characterisation. This book really excelled in creating strong compelling and relatable characters. Even though we spend the majority of our time smashing through wave after wave of emotions with Rumi, there are some intricate and in my opinion incredible character developments throughout this story. The relationships that Rumi develops are what push her through her tragedy and I adored how those relationships planned out.
The representation in this novel was excellent, one example is Rumi who is both interracial (Japanese, Hawaiian and white) and spends most of the novel exploring her sexual orientation which she thinks she closely identifies as asexual and somewhat part of the a-romantic spectrum.

“I’m even angrier at Mom for forgetting to keep at least half of her soul for me.”

– Akemi Dawn Bowman, Summer Bird Blue

The final element I’d like to draw on is that of writing. I found Bowman’s writing to be beautifully arranged, it was lyrical and hard hitting. There were so many moments in this story where I found myself just sitting with a passage thinking ‘damn’. She used metaphors in a way that brought out the vivid imagery and rawness of the emotions. My favourite part of this story, is the way music is used as a tool to drive the narrative, and simultaneously as a healing force.

I will hold this story dear to me for a long time, I hope that these characters stay in my memory and remind me of their wit and sass and rawness whenever I’m feeling down. I can whole heartedly say that I would recommend this book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Ink Road Books for allowing me to read this wonderful story.


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