“Summer Bird Blue” by Akemi Dawn Bowman – 5/5 Stars
“Summer Bird Blue” by Akemi Dawn Bowman is a young adult LGBTQ book that deals with the topic of asexuality at a young age. The novel revolves around a young girl named Rumi, struggling with the loss of her sister and best friend, Lea. Lea was always there for her sister; the two wrote music together; they talked about boys together; they were inseparable. And while there is only one brief scene of the two of them at the beginning, it’s easy to see the qualities they share and the love that they have as a family. Of course, this is not all we see of their relationship, as Lea appears many times in flashbacks both warm and heartbroken.
As the story progresses, we watch Rumi foray through the stages of grief. Shortly after Lea’s death, Rumi is shipped off to Hawaii to live with her Aunt. As many people would, Rumi takes to anger in this new environment, finding herself wanting to yell at anyone who tries to help her. Because she is a seventeen-year-old girl, and Dawn Bowman did a great job of painting her as a fiery angst filled teen who just wants her sister back, Rumi’s anger is relatable.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect much from this book. I picked it off a list at the mention of an asexual character. Asexuality is highly underrepresented in books and media; and I thought it would be an interesting read. What I got from the book, was so much more. Dawn Bowman does an excellent job at crafting a story where there isn’t much going on within the narrative. Rumi spends the summer on the island of Hawaii meeting new people and dealing with new experiences. There isn’t much of a story, and the arcs are all character-based. That being said, this book probably isn’t for someone mainly into adventures. But it is for someone liking character-driven stories with rich connections.
I fell in love with these characters, as seeing myself within them became easy — Rumi with her grief-based anger and her willingness to lash out at those around her, her confusion with attraction and sexuality; Kai with his troubled family and his uncertain future; Aunt Ani just trying to help out wherever she can. That’s not all of them. There were so many more amazing, detailed, well thought-out characters. I was impressed with each of them, as they all had such varying quirks and personalities. If anything, I would suggest reading “Summer Bird Blue” simply because of it’s amazing characters.
But the book is much more than that. Bowman’s novel reads almost as a stream of consciousness. Page-after-page, we listen in on Rumi’s thoughts and feelings. The great thing about the story is that we get to watch Rumi grow as a person, not only through her actions, but through her thoughts. She struggles with the idea of being able to play music again, and we get to witness her thought process as she overcomes this fear.
Then, of course, there’s her sexuality. “Summer Bird Blue” tackles a lot of tough issues within its pages. Dealing with the loss of a family member and figuring out one’s sexuality? It’s a lot; but the two plot lines meshed incredibly well together while also bringing to light sexualities that don’t often get a lot of attention. The storyline is focused mostly around Rumi’s possible asexuality (and yes, they actually say the words ‘asexual’ and ‘asexuality’ aloud in this book — amazing, right?) while also describing other orientations. They touch briefly on being aromantic and demisexual, something that a lot of other LGBTQ books never do.
I applaud Akemi Dawn Bowman in writing a book with such diverse, amazing characters. It isn’t something that I’ve seen before and it feels fresh and new, a feeling that is always amazing to have when reading a book.
The LGBTQ novel “Summer Bird Blue” is expected for release Sept. 11th, 2018 from Simon Pulse, the YA imprint of Simon & Schuster Publishing. You can preorder your copy here. It is recommended for ages 12 & up, specifically grades 7 through 9.
BOOK REVIEW: “Let’s Talk About Love” by Claire Kann
“Let’s Talk About Love”, a biromantic, asexual coming-of-age story for some of the underrepresented parts of the LGBTQ spectrum gets 4 out of 5 stars.
“Let’s Talk About Love” by Claire Kann tells a story of college-aged student Alice as she endeavors everything that life has to offer her. Throughout the novel, Alice struggles with friendships, romances, and even future career plans. “Let’s Talk About Love” is easily one of most realistic books I’ve ever read. The timeline and characters all flow nicely together. While reading, it felt like I was there with the characters, experiencing everything as they did. I would consider this book to be a nice escape from my own reality, not something intensely exciting or mind-blowing, but a nice distraction from real life.
Claire Kann does an excellent job of painting the character Alice as a real human being. Her feelings and thoughts were all easy to identify with. I was falling in love with Alice as I was reading; and the characters were my favorite part of the book. Each one is so independently developed that it is clear that Kann spent a lot of time crafting them.
I also can’t help but praise the book for including a biromantic, asexual character. The book I read previously, “Summer Bird Blue” by Akemi Dawn Bowman, included an asexual character, but didn’t delve too much into detail as to what that meant. While that was still an incredible book, I appreciated that Kann took the time to explore the different types of asexuality as well as what asexuality meant to Alice. Alice has a great appreciation for aesthetics and the “cuteness” of people. She’s even made a cutie code to classify how looking at someone makes her feel. It’s details like these that really enhanced the book for me.
Alice also regularly visits a therapist. This is the first book that I have ever read where I actually got to see a character talking to a therapist. I think this is something that is important for young people to see in books. I talk a lot about how normalizing LGBTQ characters is important (which it is), but these are also things that need to be normalized. Young adults will read this book and see that it’s okay to get help with these things. Alice also struggles with the uncertainty of not knowing who she is, a reason for the therapy visit, and I think these are all great topics to include in a book.
While I did love everything that this book stood for, talking about love and sexuality and gender equality, I felt as if it was made for people much younger than myself. I almost always enjoy young adult fiction, but Kann’s writing struck me as rather simple. It would be easier for a younger person to understand and even identify with, though it’s written about a girl in college. There are mature topics in here, but not many. I think the only thing some may deem as inappropriate is the conversation about arousal. Even then it’s spoken about only to figure out Alice’s feelings toward a person.
Also — and this might just be me — but I for one am thankful to see a bi (romantic in this case, but sexual in others) person end up with a male. Bisexuals get a lot of heat for their “bi status” and it’s awesome that Kann included a bi character whose romantic interest is a male. Often times bi stories are about girls realizing they’re bi by falling in love with a girl. I appreciate that Kann paired Alice up with a male, showing people that bi people can be with either sex.
Kann filled “Let’s Talk About Love” with important messages for the youth, and I think everyone could learn at least one new thing from reading this book. And even if nothing new is learned, at least the younger generations reading books like these will realize that therapy is okay, being uncertain is okay, and speaking your truth is okay.