- For the visual novel, see Kirakira .
is a young adult novel by
. It won the
literature in 2005. The book's plot is about a Japanese-American family living in
The main character and narrator of the
story is a girl named Katie, a member of the Japanese-American
family."Kira-kira" (きら きら in hiragana
means sparkling, glittering, or shiny.
At the beginning of the story, Lynn taught Katie the word Kira-kira
and she uses it to describe everything meaning "glittering". Her
older sister Lynn (whom she calls Lynnie occasionally), and their
parents are living in Iowa and own a unique Asian supermarket. When
the store goes out of business, the family moves to an apartment
home in Georgia where Katie's parents can work at a hatchery with
two other Japanese families. Lynnie is Katie's best friend who was
known for being remarkably intelligent—she can beat her Uncle
Katsuhisa, a self-proclaimed chess grand master, at his own
As the plot progresses, Katie enters school, having difficulty
being the only Japanese-American in her class. Her grades are solid
C's, in comparison to Lynn's consistent A's. Lynn becomes friends
with a popular girl, Amber, whom Katie dislikes immensely, and
starts becoming interested in boys, often dropping Katie to go hang
out with people her age. Katie eventually becomes friends with a
girl named Silly Kilgore, who she meets while waiting in the car at
her mother's job. Silly's mother backs having a union at the plant
to fight for higher wages and better working conditions, though
Katie's mother opposes it.
In between, Lynn becomes sick with anemia
Amber (who Katie thought was phony anyway) dumps her as a friend.
Lynn becomes even sicker. Her parents buy her a house that Lynn
gets to choose to make her feel better. The house seemed to be
curing Lynn, until Sammy gets caught in a metal animal trap on Mr.
Lyndon's (owner of the hatchery) vast property during a picnic one
day, distressing her.
Lynn slowly progresses to become blank and irritable. Eventually
her parents told Katie that Lynn has lymphoma
. When Katie looks lymphoma up in the
dictionary she discovers that Lynn could die.
The year Katie is eleven, Lynn dies, alone on New Year's Day, when
Katie goes outside for a break shortly after caring for her. After
her death, Katie realizes why Lynn had taught her the word
kira-kira; she wanted to remind her to always look at the world as
a shining place and to never lose hope though there might be harsh
huddles in life.
Several weeks later, Katie's usually calm and restrained father
breaks into an angry rage after seeing Sammy struggle with his
limp. He takes Katie and goes and wrecks Mr. Lyndon's car, an act
which shocks her. Later on, he goes to Mr. Lyndon and owns up to
what he did, resulting in him getting fired. Katie is appalled that
her father is now unemployed, but he tells her that there is
another hatchery opening up in Missouri, where the family will
likely move next. Soon after, Katie's mother attends a pro-union
meeting at the Kilgore house. One of the things that the union
wanted to achieve was having a three-day grief leave for families
handling tragedy. Though Katie's mother knows it's a little late
for their family, if she voted for the union, it wouldn't be too
late for the next family suffering.
Later, a little bit after the holidays, Katie's parents attempt to
cheer the family up by taking them all on a wonderful, beautiful
vacation. Katie recommends California because that is where Lynn
would have wanted to go; California is where the sea she loved is
and it is where Lynn wanted to live when she got older. The family
arrives and while Katie walked on the beach, she could hear Lynn's
voice in the waves: "Kira-kira, kira-kira".