by Cynthia Kadohata
YA, Realistic Fiction
Not in a series
Reviewed by F. Bustillos, 9th grade
Cynthia Kadohata's Newbery award-winning Kira Kira is a quietly heart-breaking novel that explains the life of a Japanese-American girl named Katie and her family moving from a Japanese community in Iowa to the deep south of Georgia in the 1950s. It is Katie's optimistic older sister Lynn who teachers Katie how to see the joy in life, beyond the blandness in their young lives. Lynn is the one who shows and explains to Katie the "kira-kira," the "shining, glittering" moments and little beauties in life. And it is Lynn who becomes terminally ill, causing the family to fall apart. Katie is depended upon to remind the family of the "kira-kira" that still exists in the future, even during the hard times in life.
This book is written in first person, from Katie's point of view. I felt as if some of the strong vocabulary used in the book didn't match said POV, since Katie wasn't even in middle school and she didn't get good grades, so that was a little off. I guess the reading level must be middle school and above, because the vocabulary is pretty leveled up with normal speech with the exception of a few outdated words (due to the novel's setting). Katie strongly explains her relations, thoughts, and surroundings, from her lonely environment to the feelings she has towards her interesting family members. I loved how Katie was honest throughout the book, no matter how strange or sentimental her thoughts were. And I especially adored how she explained the relationship between her and her older sister, Lynn. Those moments of both sweet and bittersweet little anecdotes in the story made it easy to fall in love with the book. Lynn taught Katie how to have fun during boring times and made sure that she was grateful for the small things in life. Lynn set such a stellar example for Katie that I feel bad that I don't set such a good example for my own younger siblings.
The turning point of the story is when Lynn falls desperately ill, and in the meantime she becomes distant to Katie. There are so many changes in the book that it's surprising that Kadohata managed to fit them all into 244 pages. The sweet sisterhood that Katie grew accustomed to during Lynn's carefree youth becomes replaced with quietness and fear. Katie doesn't fit the cliched circumstances of a main character who stores immense fortitude, and that makes this book different (in a good way.) This book is very inspiring because deep inside, Lynn still feels the same optimism she used to have before she obtains her deteriorating sickness. Katie also begins to form some "kira-kira," which shows that even through the "downs" in life, there will inevitably be an "up." I have read this book thrice, and whenever I read it, I still feel that inspiring "kira-kira" growing inside of me each time I turn the page.