The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After

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 ne...

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Title:The Astonishing Color of After
Author:Emily X.R. Pan
Rating:

The Astonishing Color of After Reviews

  • Korrina  (OwlCrate)

    Beautiful and heartbreaking. Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, and definitely a new favourite.

  • Emily Pan

    I guess I should maybe give my own book five stars?

    THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list and the Indie Bestseller list!

    It also was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top twelve books of the season, was #5 on the INDIE NEXT list, a Junior Library Guild selection, a Book of the Month Club pick, and the Birchbox Book Club pick for March 2018!

    Check out the STARRED REVIEWS and media buzz:

    “Particularly laudable is Pan’s sensitive treatment of men

    I guess I should maybe give my own book five stars?

    THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list and the Indie Bestseller list!

    It also was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top twelve books of the season, was #5 on the INDIE NEXT list, a Junior Library Guild selection, a Book of the Month Club pick, and the Birchbox Book Club pick for March 2018!

    Check out the STARRED REVIEWS and media buzz:

    “Particularly laudable is Pan’s sensitive treatment of mental illness: Leigh learns many heartbreaking things about her mother’s life, but those moments are never offered as explanations for suicide; rather, it’s the result of her mother’s lifelong struggle with severe, debilitating depression. Dynamic, brave Leigh emerges vividly in Pan’s deft hand, and her enthralling journey through her grief glows with stunning warmth, strength, and resilience.”

    “Pan’s emotionally charged debut is a compelling exploration of grief and the insidiousness of depression. Her narrator, an artist by nature, sees the world through a colorful, complicated lens, and the novel is steeped in its Taiwanese setting…. An undeniable message about the power of hope and inner strength.”

    “Pan’s writing takes readers on a journey filled with so much emotion, color, and such well-developed characters with a touch of magic, readers will come to the ending drained and fulfilled at the same time. An exploration of grief and what it means to accept a loved one’s suicide, this book’s lyrical and heart-rending prose invites readers to take flight into their own lives and examine their relationships. VERDICT: Pan’s debut novel is not to be missed.”

    “This novel is as elegant as it is mesmerizing. The narrative—especially Leigh’s grief and guilt—is heartbreakingly real. Readers will relate to her vulnerability and overwhelming desire to find answers. This is a truly stellar debut, illuminating not only a family’s ongoing struggle with depression, but also the impact upon those left behind when faced with a friend or family member’s suicide.”

    "Debut novelist Emily X.R. Pan's author's note reveals her "family lost one of [their] own to suicide." From her personal tragedy rises The Astonishing Color of After, alchemizing devastation through art, music, poetry and, most importantly, forgiveness and unconditional love. In Leigh's mother's recovered final message, the last, crossed-out line, "I want you to remember," becomes a repeated rallying cry and an aching realization that "the purpose of memory... is to remind us how to live." ... Pan offers an extraordinary journey that proves real, surreal and wholly magical."

    “Pan’s heartbreaking, deeply felt YA debut sensitively probes questions about grief and loss.”

    “A moving, original tale…. Wide-ranging and utterly unforgettable, Emily X.R. Pan’s depiction of the search for one’s identity will leave you with shivers.”

    “Vitally important. In her debut book, Pan communicates what seems many lifetimes of wisdom: the intricacies of grief, how mental illness ripples through families and what it means to find love in the midst of so much loss.”

    “In this dazzling debut, author Emily X.R. Pan has created a spellbinding narrative about love, family, and what it means to grieve.”

    THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER was chosen for the

    list! Check out these amazing

    :

    There are already blurbs from some incredible authors, too:

    “Emily X.R. Pan's brilliantly crafted, harrowing first novel portrays the vast spectrum of love and grief with heart-wrenching beauty and candor. This is a very special book.”

    , bestselling author of

    and

    “Magic and mourning, love and loss, secrets kept and secrets revealed all illuminate Emily X.R. Pan’s inventive and heart-wrenching debut.”

    , bestselling author of

    and

    “This book mesmerized me from page one. With its lyrical writing and heartbreakingly real protagonist, The Astonishing Color of After provides a poignant reminder of grief’s power and the transcendence of love. Emily X.R. Pan utterly transported me to a world reminiscent of Isabel Allende. Haunting at every turn, this is a glorious debut.”

    , bestselling author of

    “The Astonishing Color of After is an elegant, poignant journey that crosses an ocean of memory and great loss to face the ghosts of the past and find vivid love. An extraordinary debut from a fiercely talented writer.”

    , bestselling author of

    "This beautiful, magical journey through grief made my heart take flight.”

    , bestselling author of 

     and 

    works a delicate magic. Its portrayal of grief is deeply felt, and so too is its deliciously tricky romance. I loved this book.”

    , bestselling author of

    “My heart has never been more pleasantly devastated. A raw and brilliant debut.”

    , bestselling author of

    My editor also wrote a beautiful letter about the book that's printed inside the ARC 😭😭😭:

    Soon I'll be launching my newsletter. For all the sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes updates, PLUS to get in on any exclusive giveaways,

    .

  • Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies

    I'm proud of my Asian heritage. That said, there are some things upon which the Asian culture can improve in general, and one of the major issues is how we treat mental illness. It is a stigma. It is ignored until one explodes. Even in the US, Asian-American women have a high rates of suicide because of how unwilling we are to talk about our problem, and the unwillingness of our family to confront it.

    There have been numerous suicides among famous actors and musicians in countries like Japan and

    I'm proud of my Asian heritage. That said, there are some things upon which the Asian culture can improve in general, and one of the major issues is how we treat mental illness. It is a stigma. It is ignored until one explodes. Even in the US, Asian-American women have a high rates of suicide because of how unwilling we are to talk about our problem, and the unwillingness of our family to confront it.

    There have been numerous suicides among famous actors and musicians in countries like Japan and South Korea, and after each one, people talk about it and how sad it is, and how we should not overlook depression, but I feel like nothing is ever done after the mourning period. People are still afraid to talk about their feelings for the fear of sounding weak. I think in the US, depression is not such a stigma here, and we are encouraged to seek help. In East Asian countries, mental health was and remains to be overlooked.

    I suffered from depression myself, I shouldn't use the past tense because sometimes I find myself in its grip, because depression never

    goes away. As someone caught between my heritage and American culture, this book hits very close to home.

    Leigh is the main character in this book, a Taiwanese-American, half white, half Asian. Her mother commits suicide, and Leigh believes that she turned into a bird.

    Someone mentioned "magical realism" in their review of this book and I almost ran screaming away. I fucking hate the bullshit woo-woo of magical realism. It was a poor way to describe this book, because while it has a magical, mystical quality, the tone of the narrator makes it completely readable.

    Leigh is just a typical teenager. I shouldn't say "typical" because so commonly in YA books, a typical teenager acts so clichéd. A better word is "believable." She has feelings that I could relate to. She feels guilt. She feels desire.

    This book is about Leigh's journey to understanding her mother, someone she only thought she knew. It's also a journey for Leigh, who discovers herself. It's an excellent rite-of-passage book.

    I love the way the book incorporates her feelings for her friend and crush, Axel. It's not an overwhelming thing, but Leigh's guilt and confusion over him is written so vividly.

    Like I said before, this book approaches mental illness and depression so well.

    This book doesn't glorify depression and suicide by any means, but it is so beautifully written. It was a long book, but definitely worth the read. Have tissues handy.

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    can't decide on a four or a five, but like... that should say something either way?? cathartic, emotive, and

    written, with a lead protagonist I absolutely adore.

  • Hailey (HaileyinBookland)

    TW: suicide, depression

    Such a beautiful debut! The writing was exquisite, I really cared for the characters, and I loved learning more about Chinese/Taiwanese culture! It was a fully immersive read that was definitely heartbreaking, but beautiful overall. The magical realism/religion element was excellently executed. Really enjoyed this one! My only complaint is it was a teensy bit too long IMO (though it did really insanely fast for the most part).

  • Joshua Gabriel (Ever Bookish Josh)

    .

    Last December, many K-pop fans (myself included) were distraught when SHINee's Jonghyun committed suicide. Following this tragedy, EXO's Baekhyun was criticized for saying that he didn't know why people get depressed. These events in the K-pop world piqued my interest and made me realize that depression isn't something that shouldn't be taken lightly, especially now that more and

    .

    Last December, many K-pop fans (myself included) were distraught when SHINee's Jonghyun committed suicide. Following this tragedy, EXO's Baekhyun was criticized for saying that he didn't know why people get depressed. These events in the K-pop world piqued my interest and made me realize that depression isn't something that shouldn't be taken lightly, especially now that more and more people in Asia are falling into its dangerous clutches. Since I personally haven't experienced depression or had suicidal thoughts, books like this provide an opportunity for vicarious learning. When I read such literature, I look for enlightenment, not entertainment. Hence, although 462 pages seems to long for a YA contemporary novel, I am glad that I pushed through.

    is primarily a melancholic book. In fact, most of the blurbs at the back have the word "grief." It is about a girl named Leigh, whose mother has committed suicide. Strangely, Leigh believes that her mother has turned into a bird. After Leigh finds her mother's suicide note, she travels to Taiwan in order to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, Leigh reminisces about her past, tries to find the mysterious bird, and gradually unveils the painful secrets of her family. In totality, this book is both literally and figuratively heavy.

    One reason why I enjoyed this book is that it reiterated the biological aspect of depression. As a Christian, I used to believe that depression was mostly spiritual in nature. With that in mind, reading this book made me acknowledge the fallibility of this idea. After all, if depression were only a spiritual problem, it couldn't be cured or managed by modern medicine. In the book, Leigh's mom underwent various kinds of therapy that made her feel better by altering the chemical composition of her brain. Research has proven that people with depression generally have lower levels of happy hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin. Thus, it would be foolish and unfair to assume that depressed people have something wrong with their faith or spiritual lives. Doing so could even be a form of ableism. Yes, my Christianity makes me experience life in a different way. But I don't believe that it makes me immune to depression. I actually have a friend who suffers from depression, and it makes me sad that he/she was ostracized by some of the members of her own church. With all that said, I am grateful that this book taught me that we shouldn't judge people with depression, an illness that has so many layers.

    Another reason why I liked TACOA is that it exposed me to Chinese/Taiwanese culture. Aside from numerous descriptions of food, there were discussions on death, marriage, and more. Thus, this book made me hungry for food and information. I currently don't have the means to travel to foreign countries, so I'm glad that books like this enable me to experience different cultures from the comfort of my bed. Hahaha. Chinese culture already thrives here in the Philippines, but I would love to experience it in its purest form by visiting China someday.

    The last reason for my enjoyment has something to do with this thing called love. I mentioned before that TACOA is a melancholic book, but don't worry because there are actually some light and fluffy parts. I was particularly fond of the chapters featuring Axel, Leigh's best friend. I've always been a fan of the best-friends-to-lovers trope (because it prevents any case of instalove), and the author utilized it almost perfectly. Still, it would've been better if Axel hadn't offended my feminist sensibilities by using a certain girl as a so-called distraction.

    Looking back, the main problem that I had with this book was its color-related metaphors. In this regard, the writing reminded me of Stephanie Garber's

    . Leigh and Axel were very gifted artists, and they had this thing of conveying their emotions by naming very unfamiliar colors. For example, jealousy was this special kind of green, guilt was this shade of orange, etc. You can just read the book's title if you don't get what I'm trying to say. It takes a lot of imagination to comprehend the color of "after" and other abstract concepts.

    Despite the latter complaint, I highly recommend

    because it gave me an enlightening reading experience. It's a book that can start discussions on topics that people usually avoid: depression and suicide. Also, it introduces readers to the beauty of Asian/Chinese culture. If anything, the sweet romance is just a bonus. Overall, kudos to another contemporary novel with very meaningful and relevant content.

    P.S. Other noteworthy virtues of TACOA include:

    1. Diversity (Leigh is half-Chinese and Axel is half-Filipino)

    2. Heartwarming family dynamics

    3. Magical plot twists

    4. Lesbian representation

  • Emily May

    As you can see from the picture I shared on instagram, this book was so quotable.

    I probably wouldn't have read

    if I hadn't noticed it on my library's new relea

    As you can see from the picture I shared on instagram, this book was so quotable.

    I probably wouldn't have read

    if I hadn't noticed it on my library's new releases page and thought "why not?" Talk of magical realism and a mother who turns into a bird made it sound a little too weird for my tastes; plus, talk of "lush writing" and comparisons to writers like Nova Ren Suma made me think it might be an obnoxiously flowery magical realism book.

    Honestly, all that is a little misleading. Leigh's first-person narrative - though prone to a kind of synesthesia - is far more frank and lacking in bullshit than I'd expected. She comes across as realistic, flawed and complex. The story itself is an interesting journey that does more than the typical YA grief novel.

    In the wake of her mother's suicide, Leigh is convinced her mother has turned into a bird and is trying to communicate with her. This leads her down a path that forces her to come to terms with the mental illness that her mother had lived with for years.

    In a refreshing change from the YA contemporaries I usually read, most of this story takes place in Taiwan. After her mother's death, Leigh travels there to reconnect with the Taiwanese part of her family and the author does not miss the opportunity to make the most of her setting. We are taken on a richly-portrayed journey, as Leigh discovers her mother's roots, language and culture.

    The new discoveries in Taiwan alternate with flashbacks to Leigh's life with her mentally ill mother.

    Many studies have been done on the

    in

    . The NLAAS found that Asian-Americans are

    to seek mental health help. Which is why this book about a Taiwanese woman with depression is so important. Through Leigh, depression is unpacked and explored. She longs to find out why her mother was sad enough to kill herself - was it a person? a particular event? - but, of course, there is no why. Depression is the reason in itself, and expecting it to make sense is asking too much of its sufferers.

    It's just a beautifully-written (but not over-written) and deeply moving book. The only thing I didn't love was the romance with Axel. There’s nothing wrong with it, exactly, and it avoids the usual YA tropes, but it felt unnecessary. Why do we need a romance in here? We have a heartbreaking story of loss, grief, depression, family and identity, all in a beautifully-imagined Taiwanese setting. We just didn’t need a romance, too. But this is a small complaint for an otherwise really impressive debut.

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  • April

    This book hit home for me. From Leigh losing her mom to how she had to grow up being biracial. Just a beautiful and heartfelt story.

  • may ➹

    it’s not!! I’m enjoying it!!!

    however, it is VERY slow (since it is focused around Leigh’s grief), and usually, I’m fine with slow books. but I can currently feel myself on the edge of a slump and I will not let a slow book drag me down into that hellhole, so for now,

    ---------------------------------------------

    I mean, I’m not saying that I’m still in disbelief that one of my most anticipated 2018 releases is in my hands, or that I’m dropping everything

    it’s not!! I’m enjoying it!!!

    however, it is VERY slow (since it is focused around Leigh’s grief), and usually, I’m fine with slow books. but I can currently feel myself on the edge of a slump and I will not let a slow book drag me down into that hellhole, so for now,

    ---------------------------------------------

    I mean, I’m not saying that I’m still in disbelief that one of my most anticipated 2018 releases is in my hands, or that I’m dropping everything to read this, but... that’s exactly what I’m saying

    (p.s. THE ARC IS SIGNED)

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