I feel incredibly grateful to have received an advanced copy of The Astonishing Color of After in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review. This is one of my most favorite books ever. I can’t wait to buy my own copy!
Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Genre: Teen/YA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Date published: Expected March 20, 2018
Page Count: 480
“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 stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.”
The Astonishing Color of After is a freeing, haunting, quirky, contemporary romance novel about depression, suicide, grief, family secrets, forgiveness, and love. This story takes place in America and Taiwan. Told with luxuriant writing, I wish I could share some of my favorite passages, however because this is an advance copy I’m not allowed. The writing quality is exquisite.
Leigh, the main character, is a girl who thinks of every life event as a color, yet only sketches in black and white. Leigh’s best friend is a guy named Axel, who creates pictures using colors and shapes to match the song in his head, then he makes the music to match the image. He calls it opera electronica. And yes, he is as cool as he sounds. Though Leigh has a secret crush on Axel, this is not an insta-love situation. Her other close friend, Caro, is a lesbian with a super quirky, loving family. Caro’s grandparents are absolutely adorable, and definitely a couple of my favorite characters.
When Leigh travels to Taiwan we get to meet her grandparents. As Leigh travels around Taiwan, visiting her mother’s favorite places, we get to learn a lot about the food and places. Feng is a close family friend who accompanies Leigh during her travels, teaching her more about the traditions and language. In her room at her grandparents place, Leigh finds some very dark sticks of incense. Burning each incense stick transports Leigh to a world of “Smoke & Memories” where she gets to relive moments of the past from her loved ones perspective. Flashbacks can sometimes be annoying, however these “Smoke & Memories” chapters are absolutely fantastic. Leigh’s mother always wore a cicada necklace, and I was curious about what the symbolism was for this. I learned that the cicada is a symbol of immortality or rebirth, which fits perfectly.
I appreciate how much time and careful consideration it must have taken to create a narrative centered on suicide in such an authentic and gracious manner. I smiled, I laughed, I cried tears of sadness and joy. I even got goosebumps many times reading the last 15% of this magical tale. I can’t recommend this one enough – 5 STARS!