Hey lovely readers! Today, I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen to be part of the Summer Bird Blue blog tour – thanks so much to Ink Road for sending me a gifted copy for me to read and review. This was a beautifully sad story, and one that I feel covered grief in a brilliant and understandable way; while also showing that everyone grieves differently.
Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying. What to eat, where to go, who to love. But one think she is sure of – she wants to spend her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.
Then Lea dies in a car accident, and Rumi is sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii. Now, miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, feeling abandoned by her mother, and the aching absence of music.
With the help of the “boys next door” – teenage surfer Kai, who doesn’t take anything too seriously, and old George Watanabe, who succumbed to grief years ago – Rumi seeks her way back to music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.
I mean this in the most complimentary way – Akemi Dawn Bowman knows how to write sadness and sad characters. With my heart freshly trampled from Starfish and the characters experiences in that book, I already knew that I would be in for another saddening experience with Summer Bird Blue. It tells the story of Rumi, who is having to adjust to life now that her sister has died. Not only that, but it feels like her mother has abandoned her too – sending her to stay in Hawaii while she grieves. Rumi’s life has been flipped upside-down, and she doesn’t know who to turn to, what to do or how to carry on. All she knows is that she has to finish the song her and Lea started minutes before she died. Rumi feels that she owes her sister that much.
The internal struggle Rumi deals with through the entire book is gut-wrenching to witness. She feels shut out by her mother, feels that she should have died in place of Lea – and can’t seem to stop remembering the bad parts of their relationship as opposed to the good parts. Her aunt seems to be trying too hard to get her to act normally again, and her neighbours are irritating. Summer Bird Blue really gets the reader into the headspace of a grieving teenager thinking there is nothing to live for. There are memories woven into the natural prose of the book that intend to hit both Rumi and the reader out of nowhere – they’re a surprise when Rumi doesn’t expect them.
This is an incredibly well-written portrayal of teenage grief, especially in how Rumi deals with it. She doesn’t want to talk, she shuts down, she snaps at people trying to help and develops a dark sense of humour – and all of this is completely understandable. Summer Bird Blue actively shows the entire process of grief; the denial, the anger, the dark depressing spirals that Rumi just can’t seem to get out of. I think that the book really shows what life as a grief-stricken person is like, especially when the person they’ve lost is someone that they’ve shared such a close bond with.
I won’t spoil who she becomes friends with, but the friendships that Rumi makes along the way are some that ultimately help her through this stage of her life. What I loved about Summer Bird Blue is although when grieving it feels like the world is ending and that nobody can help, there is always going to be someone who is looking out for you, and who will ultimately want to help. This is such a huge and important theme for the book, and acts to show the reader that Rumi is never truly alone, despite feeling so.
Final thoughts: A heartbreaking yet beautiful gift of a book. 4.5/5