Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Genre: Magical Realism
Category: Young Adult
Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: ‘I want you to remember’. Leigh doesn’t know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.
Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died – leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn’t home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life.
Overwhelmed by grief and the burden of fulfilling her mother’s last wish, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.
With lyrical prose and magical elements, Emily X.R. Pan’s stunning debut novel alternates between past and present, romance and despair, as one girl attempts to find herself through family history, art, friendship, and love.
I have been procrastinating writing this review for so long that I don’t even remember a lot of the details. I do remember my thoughts and feelings though.
This book has been making rounds in the bookish community and I’ve seen maybe two reviews which didn’t rave about the book. So I expected it to be at least 4 stars for me.
The story is about Leigh whose life revolved around the normal teenage things such as following her dreams and crushing on a guy. But suddenly it all changed when she came home to find out that her mom has killed herself. In the note to Leigh she says remember..
After that Leigh keeps seeing a red bird, who she thinks is her mom. Her dad doesn’t believe her but he does take her to meet her maternal grandparents, whom she has never met before. Now in Taiwan she is desperately looking for her mother, in the form of a red bird, just to see her once again and know what she has to remember.
What I liked:
- The vibe of the book was very unique. It was like you’re wading through a dream. When I did get into the book, I was Leigh and my head was filled with my mother and flashbacks and dream-like happenings. Leigh’s reality was completely changed.
- I really liked knowing things about Taiwan and Taiwanese culture. Their beliefs and myths were really interesting.
- Leigh and her complicated family relationships. They were all different, evolving relationships and it felt real.
What I did not like:
- The magical realism elements. I though the book was contemporary but it was not. I don’t think magical realism is my thing. I like fantasy but in those books it’s all fantasy elements, not the real world with these strange things happening. I just wanted a real story.
- The number of flashbacks. We kept going back and forth! I started getting a headache with all the flashbacks, of not only Leigh’s life. We saw her grandmother’s life, old days through her parents’ POVs and it was too much for me. I wanted more set in the current world.
- How suddenly in the end the dream-like story because crisp again. Although the writing is brilliant, how the author makes us feel different vibes, I didn’t like how in the end suddenly it was all normal life. The ending was like any other contemporary and it was so different from the rest of the book.
Other than these things, everything was just meh for me. I took SO LONG to finish this book. And the only reason I finished it was because I was bored one time and didn’t want to pick up a new book in fear that it’ll consume me and won’t let me study.
It was okay. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t like it as well. I recommend it if you’re looking for diversity and don’t mind unrealistic elements in a contemporary setting.