Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Release date: September 11, 2018
An e-galley was provided by Simon Pulse via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
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.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I love a good introspective book. I knew Summer Bird Blue would fit the bill perfectly, but I worry that I set my imaginary bar a little too high because SBB wasn't everything I wanted it to be.
My main issue was that I struggled with Rumi's voice. I never quite connected to it, and I felt distanced in a way that I shouldn't in a first-person-narrated story. None of the characters ever felt quite certain to me. I liked Mr. Watanabe best, I think, but I wanted to know Hannah better. Kai felt pretty one-dimensional, too.
The growth Rumi goes through is good and makes for a good story. I appreciated that she was asexual, but it felt a little stiff at points and really good at others.
The ending worked really well, though. There's good closure with most of the characters.
Content warnings: death, grief, depression, almost drowning, foul language.
The Verdict: Not as good as I hoped.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: I think so.