Sally’s Rating: 3/5
Kira-kira was an average story. Cynthia Kadohata’s book focuses on the changing relationship between two sisters when one begins suffering from a fatal disease.
The dialogue between Katie and Lynn is central to the book’s overall message. As the younger sister, Katie looks up to her older sister while also feeling bouts of angst and jealousy towards her success in making friends and her ease at schoolwork. Their rocky relationship is very believable, and both characters are saddled with both good and bad qualities that are true to life. As Lynn gets sick, their sisterly love is tested as they both find different ways to cope with the illness.
Despite the fact that it takes place in the 1950s, the book fails to recreate that era in a memorable and vivid way. While it begins in Iowa in the mid-1950s, Katie’s parents decide to move to Georgia for financial reasons and to be closer to her uncle’s family, but they must deal with racism against the Japanese American community in the Deep South.
The author does a good job at presenting the awful work conditions of the time. While Katie’s father works in a chicken hatchery and her mother works in a chicken processing plant, the harshness of factory life capitalizes on the already overbearing depression and angst that is already hanging over this book like a cloud. Despite the realness of the situation, I found myself hard-pressed to become invested in Katie’s family’s work troubles. The little subplot with the factory workers trying to unionize was hard to get invested in because Katie herself is not aware of the social issues that are happening in this time period and don’t seem to emotionally affect her.
Overall, Kira-kira was a weak read. While the two sisters were realistically drawn, the backdrop for the novel failed to come to life in a way that spoke to me. Recommended for those who enjoy reading about sisterly angst and drama no matter what not-so-fun historical era they are living in.