I am so excited to talk about this book today! I read Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman whilst on holiday in Croatia, and oh man. I’m so glad I finally read this book – thanks to Ink Road for gifting it to me on Netgalley!
I also spoke about this book in my Holiday reads wrap-up video which you can see here! (Skip to 12:32 for when I chat about Summer Bird Blue).
The Book: Summer Bird Blue
Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Publisher: Ink Road
Genre & Themes: YA contemporary, LGBTQ+ rep (Asexual m/c), grief, unconditional love
We follow the story of Rumi who wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life writing music with her sister, Lea.
However, at the start of the novel, Lea dies in a car accident. Rumi and their mum both survive, leaving them feeling an unfathomable amount of loss. With her mum struggling to cope, she sends Rumi to live with her aunt in Hawaii immediately after the accident. We follow Rumi as she struggles to cope with the loss of her sister, feeling abandoned by her mum, and trying to find her way back to music.
This book was stunning. It is such a good exploration of what life is like when you lose someone you love. To Rumi, Lea isn’t just her sister, she’s her best friend, she’s part of her. When she dies in the car accident and Rumi survives, it completely destroys her.
The stages of grief that Rumi experiences in this book are so real, and the way she just wants someone to tell her how to grieve is extremely relatable. Nobody is prepared for how to navigate grief. It affects everyone differently, and the way that we saw Rumi struggle in this book was heartbreakingly realistic.
Also, the way she felt consumed with guilt for forgetting what happened to Lea for 5 seconds is too real. Grief is so hard. It’s hard to deal with head on, and if you try and distract yourself, you don’t feel like a good enough person to the loved one that died. It really captured that complete and utter confusion and sadness so well.
On top of the exploration of grief, I absolutely loved the aro-ace representation in this book. Through the people she meets whilst in Hawaii, and also through flashbacks of conversations with Lea, we learn that Rumi doesn’t feel romantically attracted to any gender. However it’s not that simple, and the discussion about being unsure of your label, and whether to even give yourself a label was really well done.
Lastly, the way that music was threaded throughout this book was so beautiful, and really powerful. The way that Rumi talks about music and how it is intertwined with her relationship with Lea was just beautiful, and was really interesting to see how her relationship with music shifted after Lea passed away.
Everyone needs to read this book! It really is stunning, and explores grief beautifully. I can’t wait to read Akemi’s other book, Starfish, and her recently announced upcoming book Harley in the Sky which is published in 2020!
Have you read Summer Bird Blue? Do you have any other recommendations for books which deal with grief well?