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The Astonishing Color of After

Review

The Astonishing Color of After

In Emily X.R. Pan’s stunning debut, THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, the topics of grief and emotion are handled in a delicate and artistic way. Leigh Chen Sanders --- who is half white, half Taiwanese --- believes that her mother turned into a beautiful red bird after she died by suicide. In search of answers and acceptance of her beliefs, Leigh travels to Taiwan to stay with the maternal grandparents she has never met. When she arrives, she finds out the truth and reasoning behind her mother’s decision --- only in a way that doesn’t seem possible. Raw and utterly gripping, THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER explores the passage of healing and passion and the magic of believing.

"With her brilliant prose and heartfelt messages, Emily X.R. Pan has filled my universe with more color than I have ever known. I hope that Pan never stops writing books like this...."

THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER is a novel that stayed with me. Pan’s prose was haunting, tragic and extravagantly poignant; my heart was a blank canvas and her words painted it with every vivid and vibrant color imaginable. Every line transported me into the realm in which emotion isn’t entirely clear and where hope is the only thing keeping me afloat. Pan’s characters were raw and real; whatever they felt, I felt. The explanations of Chinese and Taiwanese culture were so helpful and interesting; I now know how important the idea of the spirit and worship are to them. The depiction of depression and suicide were so accurate and heartfelt. Every element of this book worked together to create a large and beautiful painting of rich culture and strong emotions.

The best aspect of this novel would be the storytelling. Pan takes us back and forth in the past and present so that readers can see what shaped the lives of the characters. The order of the memories and current events were done in a way that tied the story together. The writing style was gorgeous and added to the transporting and intoxicating atmosphere. All of these elements of the storytelling help develop the plot, setting and characters; it even added meaning to the cover and the title. The answers revealed were unpredictably melancholy and made me feel for the characters even more than I already did. The other aspects of the story were wonderful on their own, but the storytelling added a wondrous form of magic to the novel as a whole. This is one of the reasons why this has quickly reached my favorites list --- I can already tell that it’s a favorite book of 2018.

I actually wouldn’t change anything about this book. To eliminate one thing would be to take away a slip of the complex meanings that Pan was trying to convey. Each individual aspect kept the pages flying and my heart exploding. My heart took flight to amazing places that I haven’t experienced in a while. As someone who battles depression and struggles to find happiness, THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER really resonated with me. It will be in my heart forever and ever, and for that, I wouldn’t change a thing.

With her brilliant prose and heartfelt messages, Emily X.R. Pan has filled my universe with more color than I have ever known. I hope that Pan never stops writing books like this; after all, everyone deserves a story like this.

Reviewed by Daniella R., Teen Board Member on March 27, 2018

The Astonishing Color of After
by Emily X.R. Pan