Book Review: Summer Bird Blue
Summer Bird Blue
Written by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Published by Ink Road Books
Publication date: 4th April 2019
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
I’m no longer Rumi Seto, the girl who believed she could conquer the world armed with a piano and her best friend at her side. I’ve turned into someone else – someone unstable. I’ve run out of reasons to wake up every morning. I’ve become a corrupt version of myself – a version everyone seems to think is on the brink of self-destruction.
First impressions: I knew that I HAD to read this as soon as I heard of it, because I loved Starfish, by the same author. I loved how she created characters who are realistic, flawed and lovable, as well as how she showed emotion through art and the fact that the main character is biracial. Check out my full, rather gushy, review, as I loved it!
Then I read the summary for Summer Bird Blue and became even more excited.
Three things in particular caught my attention – Rumi being a worrier, the central relationship with her sister and the friendship with an eighty-year-old neighbour. With all these intriguing aspects in mind, I was delighted to be offered the chance to join this blog tour with Ink Road Books – thank you! As the last stop on this incredible blog tour I don’t know what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said, but, if you read no further, make sure you get a copy of this book because it will change your outlook on life irrevocably.
When the book arrived in the post I ripped open the package and hugged it!
Next I had to take some time to admire the beautiful cover, then I started reading it straightaway, sitting on the floor. Within seconds, I was transported into Rumi’s headspace and she became a character I cared deeply about as I continued reading.
This book doesn’t pull any punches, taking you through every step of Rumi’s realization that her ‘better’ half Lea is gone. Her fear that she’s going to forget her sister, her guilt at being the one to survive, her hope for the future they had planned…everything is raw, real and heartbreaking.
I really felt for both Rumi and her mum at this stage of the book, as in their grief they seem to keep hurting each other more rather than helping each other. Then we move to Hawaii, where Rumi’s feelings spill out of her like a volcano, burning all those around her. I related to Rumi so much at this point. Everyone experiences grief, but that experience and how we handle it is completely individual. I often react to pain and fear with anger, so I could see how Rumi lashing out was screaming out how hurt she was by Lea’s death and her mother’s seeming abandonment.
The people around Rumi also react in a variety of ways, from those who tiptoe around her on eggshells to those who laugh at her or frankly tell her that her behaviour is unacceptable,regardless of what happened. I loved how she begins to develop friendships with both Kai and Mr Watanabe and how each of those friendships support her to explore and work through her grief.
Mr Watanabe, in particular, became a favourite with me, and I worried the whole way through the book that something would happen to him too, causing Rumi to retreat even further into her angry defense.
This book explores heavy themes of death and grief, as well as exploring the bonds of love with connect us to other people, be that familial, friendship or love. Yet, in contract to those heavy themes, the book sparkles with hope and it left me feeling emotionally drained but with a full heart. I would give this all the stars if I could – it really is sheer perfection!
I dare you to read this and not have your heart broken and stuck back together, full to bursting. I dare you to read this and not fall head over heels in love.
Every word is simply pitch perfect and I loved it!
There’s no color left in my soul, just like there’s no music left in there either. How am I supposed to finish writing a song for Lea when I feel like my heart has been carved out of my chest and the empty, hollow space is all that’s left?
What if music doesn’t belong to me anymore, the way Lea doesn’t belong to this world?
My stomach churns. No – I have to give Lea her wish. I can’t let her down . Not again.
What I liked: Rumi’s complex character and how she cycles through various emotion in her grieving process. While she isn’t always likeable, she is always real and relatable. I was able to put myself fully in her shoes and read several scenes through a haze of tears. I loved her friendship with Mr Watanabe – I have a real soft spot for grumpy old people in both books and real life!
Even better if: This book is sheer perfection. I didn’t think it could be, but it is even better than Starfish! It couldn’t be improved in any way.
How you could use it in your classroom: This should be an essential part of any library catering for young adults. This would be a great text to read from during a class and could be used as prompts to talk about grieving and healing, as well as many other things. As a teacher, I would be sure to read it myself before recommending it as this book could be just what one of your pupils might need if they have suffered a loss, but it could also be a painful experience so each individual case needs to be judged thoughtfully.
About the Author:
Akemi Dawn Bowman is the award-winning author of Starfish, Summer Bird Blue, Harley in the Sky (March 2020), The Infinity Courts series (Spring 2021), and Generation Misfits (Winter 2021). She’s a proud Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She currently lives in Scotland with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix.
What did other bloggers think?
“Summer Bird Blue is a beautiful and heartbreaking story that balances anger and humour and tackles many important topics with veteran ease.”
Jasmine @ThesePaperWords said:
“I really have no idea how to talk about how incredible this book is. It’s heartbreaking and intricate. An engaging, honest portrayal of dealing with loss in death and finding a new path in the life that remains.”
Don’t miss the other stops on the blog tour!
Check out all the reviews and posts from the blog tour below:
Review from Layla @ReadableLife
Extract from Virginie @ChouettBlog
Q+A from Kate @ReadingThroughInfinity
Review from Charlotte @CharlotteSomewhere
Review from Georgi @NifflerReads
Review from Sammy @Sammy’sShelf
Review from Jemma @FantasticBooksandWhereToFindThem
Music and Me from Maddie @BookBrowsingBlog
Book playlist from Avery @RedRocketPanda
Review from Georgia @TheBookishGurl
Review from Emma @NeverJudgeABookByItsCover
(Thank you to Ink Road Books for my review copy and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour!)
Thanks for reading!