Summer Bird Blue
Akemi Dawn Bowman
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.
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 11th 2018
ALL OF THE SAD STARS
I thought I’d escape the tears. I thought I’d get through this and come out the same. No. My face hurts. I’m dehydrated. I’ve been crying for too long.
Rumi Seto is sent to Hawaii by her mother after her sister’s death to grieve. It is there that she meets grumpy old man, a lively boy next door and an opportunity to finish the song she knows her sister would want her to .
“Lea was always the romantic one, not me. Mom says I might be a late bloomer, but I’m not so sure. Late implies there’s something that’s still going to happen— something I don’t fully understand yet.”
The beginning scared me in the sense that we’re thrown into the grief of Rumi, we don’t really get to know Lea or their mother; it’s just anger and hurt and pain. But as the story went on, there are flashbacks and we’re getting into Rumi’s psyche; everything is developed seamlessly.
Rumi as a character is unlikable. And she knows it; we see through said flashbacks that’s she wasn’t the nicest sister or daughter, she’s selfish and speaks without regard for others feelings, but she loves fiercely. She has feelings and it hurts her when people forget that. I, personally, related to her a lot. Her insecurities about being the lesser daughter, of not being the first choice, of being the outsider in her own family. As someone with two siblings, all of these feelings resonated with me almost too deeply.
“Most other people my age have crushes—they’re attracted to each other and have the urge to flirt. I don’t feel anything like that—when I think about romance , I feel indifferent . When I see someone I think is physically attractive, I don’t picture them naked or wonder what it’s like to kiss them— I just see people who are aesthetically pleasing and could potentially make a good friend.”
And the ace/aro rep was too real for me. Every questioning thought Rumi had was such a connectable thing for me. Her fear of labels, of being unsure of herself while others were so in tune with who they were. And the fact that things still aren’t certain in the end? That she’s still questioning? The fact that there was no romance? That the supposed “love interest” was perfectly okay with being her friend? Can you hear me squealing with happiness????
Bowman’s ability to have a character make mistakes and not only not excuse them, but humanize them blows my mind. I wasn’t expecting to empathize with Rumi’s mother yet understand where Rumi was coming from.
The found family aspect of the story was probably my favorite. Mr. Watanabe and his prickly way about him, Kai and his blunt, happy nature, the group of friends Kai introduces her to.
My favorite was probably Gareth, who’s little conversation with her about sexuality may have caused some tears for me. And this group doesn’t lack in the diversity column, there’s a subtle discussion on being biracial and owning it that warmed my heart.
The last 80% had me bawling my eyes out. How everything was coming together. The ending has such a bittersweet feel to it. It’s open yet ends on a hopeful, uplifting note that leaves a somber feeling in my heart. Seeing myself in a character, over their grief of a sibling— I’m forever grateful.