Katie Takeshima is the middle child in a Japanese American family of 5. She suffers from "middle child" syndrome in that she constantly alternates between mimicking her older sister in everything, yet serving as a second mother to her youngest brother. Katie struggles with feeling like there is nothing special about her, when it is actually she who holds her family together during their darkest days.
Written from Katie's point of view, the book alternates between funny little memoirs of family camping trips or her uncle's mishaps and the very serious story of her older sister's battle with cancer and her parents' financial struggles.
The title of the book is the Japanese word for glittering. In her younger days, it is Katie's favorite descriptive word for things like the ocean and the sky. By the end of the book, it serves as a reminder that-despite the terrible things that have happened to her family-she can still choose to live a happy life.