Summer Bird Blue by 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.



Yes, I totally understand why this book has gotten such an amazing response! This book will make you feel a lot without you ever being prepared to feel anything while reading this book and consequentially, it’ll lead to tears, both happy and sad ones.

Summer Bird Blue is a YA Contemporary that revolves around Rumi, a music-loving teenager, who suffers the loss of her sister, Lea, through a car accident. It’s about Rumi drowning in loneliness because the closest person to her is no longer alive but through love and growth, she understands how she can be the closest person to her own self. In addition to the sibling relationship, the story also highlights a mother-daughter relationship, friendship, suffering, and development one oneself through a series of incidents. The writing perfectly voices the sadness and grief while also reflecting on the little rays of happiness shining in between. 

Let me take a minute to applaud the diversity in this book, both in terms of sexuality and race. Most of the characters are biracial–Hawaiian, Filipino, Japanese, Korean–and black. The protagonist, Rumi, is multi-racial, half-Japanese and half-Hawaiian from her mother and Irish-white from her father. In terms of sexuality, there’s a realistic approach toward Rumi finding her identity. She explores her identity throughout the book, whether it’s a kiss she didn’t like or a feeling she couldn’t grow inside of her before she indefinitely picks up the labels of aromantic and asexual. While also voicing out her ideology of being comfortable within one’s own skin and thoughts, and not confining a personality into a specific box. Talk about me falling in love with a fictional character!

Your sexuality–and how you identify–is nobody else’s business. You can change your mind or not change your mind. Those labels exist for you, and not so that everyone else can force you into the box.Especially if that box is their close-minded idea of fucking normal.” 


Trigger Warnings: loss of a loved one, grief, a car accident, loneliness, death, sexual reflections. 

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7 thoughts on “Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

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