The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Genre: Young Adult Magical Realism
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: March 20, 2018
Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life. Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.
A young girl is certain her dead mother is a bird.
Going into this book, I had very high hopes. There have been countless hype surrounding this book and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. However, it fell quite flat for me. There was something about it that I just couldn't get into the story. The romance part of the novel did not do it for me. It often felt very forced.
Most of the novel, I was kind of bored, to be honest. Maybe, magical realism isn't for me. If the novel hadn't have dealt with mental illness and suicide, I would have probably given up reading it altogether. It did have good mental health representation. Which I enjoyed. I feel like the book tried to be too deep.
The characters fell flat and I did not feel a connection to them in the slightest. The main character, Leigh is broken after her mother commits suicide. She begins to see a bird everywhere and starts to believe it is her mother following her. The concept was all-around weird. I did like the Asian representation of the novel.
The whole plot was just weird and was described in tons of color and different descriptions. This was too weird for my taste. There was too much teenage angst in this book that I wanted to stop reading it many times. The Astonishing Color of After wasn't the worst book I have ever read but it wasn't necessarily that great either. If it wasn't for the original hype and hoping that it would get better..... I probably would have not even finished this book. The cultural references were the only good parts of the story. The story is very slow in developing and it seemed a lot longer than it actually was. This was definitely a book I won't be picking up again.
Emily X.R. Pan is the New York Times bestselling author of THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize, longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and the recipient of the APALA Honor Award and the Walter Honor Award. The Wall Street Journal named it as one of the top twelve books of the season, and it was featured on over a dozen "Best of 2018" lists, including ones by NBC News, Entertainment Weekly, BuzzFeed, and Bustle. Emily currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She has been awarded residencies at Djerassi (2017) and Caldera (2019), and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology. Visit her online at exrpan.com, and find her on Twitter and Instagram: @exrpan