The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After

Book - 2018
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A stunning, heartbreaking debut novel about grief, love, and family, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson and Celeste Ng.

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.

"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."--John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2018
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780316463997
Branch Call Number: YA PAN
Characteristics: 472 p. ;,22 cm

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sarahmokhtari
Apr 16, 2021

The Astonishing Color of After follows the story of Leigh Chen Sanders, who is half Asian and half white. Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents after her mother takes her own life. There, she tries to come to terms with what happened and tries to find a way to heal from her grief. The issue of depression is explored deeply throughout this novel. Leigh longs to find out why her mother was sad enough to kill herself. Was it a person? A specific event?
This was a heartbreaking yet utterly beautiful story. The author delves deep into depression and sheds a light on the impact the loss of a loved one leaves behind. The plot, characters, writing, and metaphors in this book were truly outstanding. The story manages to provide us with a raw perspective on mental illness and how hard it is to explain it to other people. This book shows us that there’s no exact guide/manual to understanding mental illness; it is something much more complex than one can imagine. 5/5 stars!

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red_sheep_101
Jan 07, 2021

Wow. That's all I can say after reading this book. "The Astonishing Color of After" is incredibly written, so poetic and original and thought-provoking. There are sad things, like how Leigh's mother died by suicide, and happy things, like the connections the characters made and rebuilt between each other.

As an artist and pianist, I can relate to Leigh and Axel--how they see the world through artists' eyes and how Axel creates music from the art he creates. I can also relate to Leigh--how she felt out of place being biracial when she went to visit her all-Taiwanese grandparents. (For me, it's being ethnically all-Chinese in an all-White family).

I highly recommend this book, please read it!

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starbits
Aug 07, 2020

Leigh, the featured character of this story thought to have the most perfect family & friends but after a sudden turn of events, her mother has died from suicide. To her, this only meant one thing after a sighting that she experienced with a beautiful, red bird —— her mother has turned into a bird. This story faces her experiences of grief, memories involving the past, & what she felt as a racially mixed person.
Leigh's emotions are expressed through the usage of color. The way this story features color as a substitute for how you feel is incredible really, it only left me in awe. While I read this, I could only feel a spiral of emotions, mixed with grief, hope, & even fear.
As someone who isn't much of a reader, I do not regret reading this one bit. It is beautifully written, and I would definitely read it again.

LPL_MaryW Jul 20, 2019

Leigh is sure of one thing—when her Taiwanese mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Her mother’s mysterious past unfolds as Leigh is visited by a beautiful and increasingly elusive red bird. When the bird delivers a package from Leigh’s maternal grandparents (whom she’s never met), Leigh and her dad travel to Taiwan to meet them and join them in grieving. Magic and realism intertwine as the story switches between past and present. As Leigh searches for her mother, she finds identity, recognition, and even love in the process. Leigh and best friend Axel’s love of art beautifully supplement the sorrow of loss by suicide. This book is an incredibly moving total package.

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MHanover10
Feb 03, 2019

This is such a heartbreaking and sad story about depression, suicide and how it affects everyone in a family. I know a few people who have committed suicide or been affected by someone they love who have committed suicide. It's heartbreaking for those who are left behind and for those who felt they couldn't live any longer. Suicide and depression are such a huge part of society and is not something that we should ignore. I'm glad I listened to this. I wish I saw colors when I was feeling things. Or see colors when music is played like a girl last night on The Voice says happens to her.

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CASSIE ERIN KELLEY
Jan 30, 2019

This was a unique look into the world of somebody who has been affected by mental illness. Leigh is a great narrator who sees the world with an artist’s eye. The constant mention of colors to describe attitude and emotion kept me enthralled.

This book deals with Depression, Suicide, and Grief in a gentle, yet passionate whirl of colors. Emotion is soaked into every chapter, along with the confusion of a sudden, unexpected loss. As I have Bipolar Disorder, I know that the struggle is real. This was a book I needed to read. It helps me to see through another lens, to see it from the outside.

‘The Astonishing Color of After’ is a heartbreaking, yet beautiful book. Soaked in color, dripping with pain and confusion, this read will help to delve deeper into what mental illness is, as well as, hopefully, break apart some of the stigma.

A beautiful exploration of mental illness, family, and culture. The Astonishing Color of After takes place immediately after Leigh’s mother has committed suicide. Leigh, who is already a teenager discovering her place in the world, struggles to come to terms with what happened – and how her mother’s depression has affected both Leigh and her father. Believing that her mother’s spirit is still present, Leigh travels to Taiwan to reconnect with her estranged maternal grandparents.

This is a beautiful, thoughtful look at mental illness and grief, as well as an exploration of Taiwanese culture (the author’s background as well.) It’s also a touching reflection on family. The chapters move back in forth in time – present day Taiwan, and in the past, with flashes of memory surrounding Leigh’s mother and parents.

The subject matter here could easily become either melodramatic or saccharine, but Emily X. R. Pan has managed to write an incredibly thoughtful and balanced book that explores heavy topics with grace and a deft hand. I loved the writing, and I loved spending time with Leigh in Taiwan as she rediscovers her mother’s roots. Quietly powerful and highly recommended. (Submitted by Veronica)

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Linyarai
Aug 18, 2018

I read the whole thing in a Saturday afternoon, it was very different from what I normally read and I enjoyed that it wasn't predictable at all. I liked how normal and real the characters were, and the emotions and hardships they experienced.

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TEENREVIEWBOARD
Jul 24, 2018

I don’t know what I expected from this book, but it definitely wasn’t this. “The Astonishing Colour of After” explores grief, depression and mental illness in the most heartbreaking and raw way. When Leigh’s mother commits suicide, she is not worried. Her mother is not dead. Her mother takes from in the red bird that arrives at Leigh’s doorstep. It tells her to go to Taiwan; she will find the answers she seeks there, with her grandparents. The Taiwanese culture is explored so beautifully in exquisite writing, providing an unbeatable experience for me as a reader. I truly felt as though I was walking through the night market, tasting the flavours of the city. This book consists of three parts; the present story, told in Leigh’s POV, memories, and incense visions. I had no idea that magical realism was a central focus of the story, and it was a new genre for me. I won’t say that I was the biggest fan of it, because it was hard to discern the truth from the false. On the other hand, Leigh describing her feelings as colours was one of the most relatable parts of the book, and they really hit hard. Rating 4.5/5 @jewelreader of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

KateHillier Jun 04, 2018

This is a work of art. It's sad, beautiful, magical, and so many other things that I think it's a bit beyond me. Leigh's mother dies by suicide and Leigh comes to believe that she has been reincarnated into a bird. Her father and best friend find this difficult to believe. The search for her mother leads her to visit Taiwan and meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. Culture shock, awkward family situation and communication issues abound with this backdrop of a terrible loss and an impossible belief. It's a wonderful story and well worth the time to take a look. It's really a delicate thing, much like the bird and Leigh's art.

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