Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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

Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I found this book the way I usually do; a recommendation list. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now and I couldn’t renew it anymore, so as soon as I could, I pushed it to the top of the stack. I didn’t want to return this beautiful, lovely book to the library before I could experience it. I finished Inkmistress and immediately dove into the novel, swept away by the gorgeous, colorful prose and Leigh’s powerful, heartfelt voice, and her journey to self-acceptance, forgiveness, and letting go. This book is easily one of the best of 2018; I will never forget Leigh Chen-Saunders or her beautiful, sad story. Emily X.R. Pan has become of my new favorite authors with this book!
Leigh Chen-Saunders has been having a rough time lately, and that’s putting it lightly. Her mother committed suicide after a lifelong battle with depression. As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, she was kissing her best friend, Axel, when it happened. Wracked with guilt, confusion, and grief, she sees a beautiful red crane in the sky and is convinced that the bird is her mother, trying to send her a message she cannot decipher. Obsessed with finding out what drove her mother to take her own life, she convinces her distant father to take her to Taipei, in desperate need of answers. Once there, she discovers the family she never knew, and things about herself that she never wanted to face. A beautiful and unforgettable story about grief, family, and self-discovery, The Astonishing Color of After was amazing—one of the best books I’ve ever read.

This book; I finished it last weekend and I’ve been stewing over it ever since, unable to get it out of my head. The cover, initially, was what caught my eye; it was so ethereal and beautiful. But the lyrical, gutsy prose just grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go; I was totally spellbound. Leigh herself also felt like a long-lost friend, bereft and set adrift in a deep well of grief and confusion. My heart ached, and later broke, for her. I’ll be honest: I was crying through most of the book. I was so moved; Leigh burrowed into my heart and has been heavy on my mind ever since. Her relationship with her family, especially her late mother, and her childhood best friend, Axel, was in the spotlight, and I loved it. The dreamy, gorgeous writing was amazing; I was bowled over. I loved Leigh and her character development, her transition from an insecure and shy young woman, unsure of her own identity to a girl unafraid to reach out for the future, despite all of its uncertainties; it was such a wonderful journey, and already, I wish I could take it once more. The only thing that I didn’t really like about The Astonishing Color of After was Leigh’s father; despite his grief, I feel like for most of the book, he didn’t really know his own daughter, and barely tried to. But the ending made up for everything, and I was so incredibly touched. I also really liked the way that mental illness was portrayed throughout the book; it was presented in such a tender and understanding way, and I loved the way that excuses weren’t offered up for Leigh’s mother’s depression. It was simply something that was a part of her, something she’d tried her whole life to combat to be a better wife and mother. The bottom line: A gorgeous, beautiful novel about family, grief, and self-discovery, I loved The Astonishing Color of After, one of the best books of 2018, hands down! Next on deck: Magic, Murder, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones! 

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