Skip to main content

The Astonishing Color of After


The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (472 pages)
Overview: Leigh's mother dies by suicide. The image haunts her mind. She and her father grapple for why as the grief sets in. All that she left behind are crossed out lines, an attempt at a note, and one mentions wanting her to remember. Remember what, Leigh doesn't know. But when a giant, red bird that must be the next incarnation of her mother delivers a package full of relics from her mom's family in Taiwan, she knows that she has to go visit them. Her father, an scholar in East Asian studies, arranges a trip for her to meet her grandparents for the first time, and, despite the language barrier, Leigh begins to connect with her mother's parents and heritage all while trying to piece together what her mother is trying to communicate before time runs out. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Leigh sees and communicates with the world with colors. Emotions are not happy or sad but parrot green and magenta. The other senses have colors as well, and that's always been her secret language with her best friend, Axel, a fellow artist. Leigh struggles with a feeling of responsibility for her mom's death because she wasn't with her when it happened. She struggles with breaking with her dad's wishes and becoming an artist, and she struggles with the fact that her best friend, and secret crush, is on again off again with a different girl. That fades, though, in comparison to her grief.
Her parents are probably the best part of the novel, and it is as much their story as Leigh's. Her mother moved from Taiwan to the United States for a music intensive program where she met Leigh's father Brain who wasn't Taiwanese or Asian at all despite having studied the culture in his degree and career. Her parents try to disown her and force her into leaving Leigh's father, but she rebells and cuts off contact with her parents even when they ask for forgiveness. Leigh's mother, Dory, battled depression throughout her life and proves resistant to treatments despite how hard they try to find a solution. Leigh is never quite sure, though, where exactly her mother's mental health stands because it is not discussed, even though she becomes her mother's only support system with her dad's constant travel. Losing her mother would be horrible regardless, but, in many ways, she was Leigh's only parent. Her father was always gone, and, when he was home, he spent most of his time criticizing her artistic aspirations. It was beautiful to watch their relationship morph in the face of their incredible, yet nearly independent, losses.

Plot: 4 While I love the narrative of her going to Taiwan on a journey of discovery, the pacing was a bit slowed by so many scenes that followed the same pattern of her coming out of memories or trace like episodes. I liked the short chapters and the unspooling of her past, and, at maybe 100 pages shorter, I would have given the book five stars. It was amazing to see her connect with the other half of her culture, the other half of her family and find things to help her cope with her grief.

Writing: Pan's writing is poetic and filled with color. She lets emotion and description fill the pages for an immersive experience. I like the unique way that she revealed Leigh's character. What was confusing, though, was the bird and other elements of the story that are later revealed to be different than Leigh perceives. At times throughout the book, I was pretty sure Pan was writing Leigh's story of a struggle with schizophrenia and the fantastical things she saw were products of hallucinations, but then the way that others in the story interacted with the hallucinatory elements made me question if she meant it to be interpreted as a bit of a fantasy/paranormal type thing with her mother's ghost influencing and facilitating the happenings. Seeing the things that happen toward the end of the book, I'm beginning to believe more the latter, but there's nothing terribly concrete that Pan leaves the reader to know. I'm a fan of ambiguity, but I would have liked more of an acknowledgement one way or another.

Links of Interest: 
Odd One Out: Review Here
Save the Date: Review Here
Solitaire: Review Here
What I'm Looking Forward to in 2019: Here

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What I Want to See More of In YA

As the year comes to a close, I'm reflecting on the books that I read (and loved) this year, and I'm eagerly putting my TBR together for the next. In the coming weeks, I'll be posting about my favorite books of the year, what I'm looking for next year, and a deeper look into some of the statistics behind my reading. While I've been working on those posts, though, I've seen trends in books that I'm drawn to and underrepresented areas in YA that I want to see more of. This post is my ultimate future wish list as well as a call for other readers to speak out about the kinds of books they want to see represented more on the book shelves. Let me know in the comments if some of these are on your list, or if there's other books you want to see!

College YA I'm starting off with my main wish. I absolutely love YA set in college, and there's absolutely not enough of it. Publishers seem to be scared of venturing that murky space after the summer before fre…

Top Reads of 2018

This year's best of 2018 list has tons of new categories to fit all of the amazing books I read this year. I've had the chance to read so many advanced books and recent releases, so most of what I read were books that came out in 2018. I mostly choose contemporary, so I've started with my favorite debut as well as the best books in other genres I've ventured into. After that, I have smaller categories in the contemporary genre. I hope you find new books to love and give to your friends and family for the holidays. If you're interested in learning more about the books on the list, click their titles to go to my reviews. Let me know if these are some of your favorites in the comments, and tell me your favorite books!
Best In Genre Top Debut
Nothing Left To Burn by Heather Ezell Nothing Left To Burn gave me the craziest book hangover. I was so immersed in the story, and I couldn't stop reading to do anything that I actually needed to be doing. There is a toxic relat…

The History of Jane Doe

The History of Jane Doe by Micheal Belanger (2018)
Overview: Ray knows the entire history of his hometown, Burgerville, Connecticut. He also knows lots of different tidbits about the world as well. But, for his first written account of history, the story must center on loss, why, and fleeting moments of happiness. He has to tell the story of his first girlfriend, hidden by the anonymity of the name Jane Doe. Told in Before and After chapters, Ray explores the highs and lows he had in his fleeting relationship with Jane and his recovery from crushing loss. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 5 Jane is coping with clinical depression that probably stems from a combination of family history and past trauma. She goes between trying to hide her scars and struggles and exposing them, tiny piece by piece to the people she loves.
Ray is fascinated by Jane and the way she looks at the world and the town he's lived in all his life with fresh eyes.
His friend, Simon, is dorky and not quite all together b…

Long Way Down

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (306 pages) Buy At Your Local Bookstore*
Overview: It's just one elevator ride. Just one elevator ride to the rest of Will's life. Eight floors takes so long when you're headed to kill someone. Even in revenge. Even for justice. Even when your brother was just murdered. It's even longer when every stop brings someone who's left your life back in. There's so much to learn before Will hits the lobby. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Because of the atmosphere and the point of the story, we don't get super into the characters. They each represent a stop on a horrible cycle. It starts with Buck, Will's older brother, Shawn's, older brother figure. When Buck got killed, Shawn had to avenge his death, which got him killed. He also meets his Uncle Mark, an aspiring filmmaker who's death lead to Will's father's death because of the Rules. Each character doesn't exist to explore themselves or have their own motives- they…

Ultimate Halloween Book List

At the beginning of October, I unconsciously started reading murder-thriller books. It started with finally reading One of Us Is Lying and then I went to Lauren Oliver's book event for her new book, Broken Things, so I decided I would pick up a few more to read on the many plane rides I've taken recently and make a list for you. I've ranked them by the books I enjoyed most, but I'm also throwing a scariness ranking below too.

1. The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
I loved The Cheerleaders. Even if I wasn't narrowing this to just thrillers, this would still be up there. While there's no immediate threat, there's still a sinister feeling five years after five cheerleaders die in a year in three accidents. One of the girl's sister, who investigates, also has a complicated life of her own. Thomas did an awesome job of sprinkling the mystery clues and bringing us a story through such a strong voice. Here's my full Review Here (4.5 stars overall, 2 scare fact…

This Is Not a Test

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (326 pages)
Overview: Sloane wanted to end her life. And then the apocalypse came. Her focus suddenly turns to survival because that's what she's supposed to do. She finds a group of other teens from her school, and they survive in the infected city for seven days before finding shelter in the high school. With all the doors barricaded and the necessities provided, suddenly, there's room to think, reflect, and feel again, and their safe haven quickly turns into a cage. Overall: 5 

Characters: 5 This cast has blown me away. Courtney Summers in general has done that with every aspect of the novel, but the characters are all so detailed and unique and flawed and emotional and broken. It makes for the perfect novel.
Sloane has recently had her sister leave without her, even though the plan was for them to escape their abusive father together. Without Lily, she feels her life has no point, but when it's seriously threatened, something co…

Meet Me In Outer Space Review

Meet Me In Outer Space by Melinda Grace (262 pages) To Purchase from your Local Bookstore(Affiliate Link)
Overview: Eddie has an auditory processing disorder. Sometimes, she hears things that don't quite add up. Sometimes, she's able to piece together what is meant, and, others, she asks people to repeat themselves. This works well enough regularly, but, in French 102, it might keep her from her dreams. Eddie needs the language credits to graduate; she needs the French language if she wants to make it in France, the capital in fashion. She fully expects to fail French 102, but she doesn't expect to fall for the TA. Sometimes, though, life defies expectations. Overall: 4.5 

Characters: 4 Eddie is a highly relatable character. She's driven and willing to work doubly hard to overcome a system that actively works against her. She also knows what her dream is and how to get it. Spending the summer and fall semester of her junior year in Paris would allow her to step toward he…

With The Fire On High

With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo (May 7) To Purchase From Your Local Bookstore*
Overview: Emoni Santiago has a lot on her plate. She has to help her grandmother around the house, get through senior year of high school, work, and care for her two year old daughter. She has dreams about being an executive chef, but that idea feels so far away sometimes. Even though she feels a bit mixed up inside, making food and putting her own spin on it gives her a much needed release. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 I loved the characters in this book and the family dynamics! Emoni has a complicated relationship with her family and others around her because of her life experiences. Her mother died during labor, so she's never known her. Her father dropped her off with her Abuela and fled back to Puerto Rico to find himself. With weekly phone calls and sporadic visits, Emoni is unsure how to feel about her father. Her grandmother, though, has always more than made up for the gaps in her life, an…

Two Can Keep a Secret

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus (327 pages)
Overview: Ellery and Ezra have moved to Echo Ridge right when the beloved science teacher is killed in a hit and run. They come across the body on their drive into town which sets the tone for their time in Echo Ridge. It seems that the killer of the homecoming queen from five years ago has returned with a slew of threats against the new court. And then, Brooke, one of the princesses, goes missing. Echo Ridge goes from a rich, suburban New England town to the sight of a possible serial killer, and true crime fanatic, Ellery, is going to solve it the mystery. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 Ellery and Ezra aren't super memorable. They're fine. Likable enough, but nothing stands out to make them special. Ezra is reduced to a minor, minor character, even though he's originally painted as important and Ellery is your classic new girl in town, true crime fanatic. I just can't find anything that stands out about her as much as I w…

You'd Be Mine Review

You'd Be Mine by Erin Hahn (April 2) To Purchase From Your Local Bookstore (Affiliate Link)
Overview: Clay Coolidge is the new hotshot in country music, but his tour hinges on him signing his opening act, Annie Mathers. While they doubt Clay can keep his cool on the summer tour highlife, they know that Annie has a promising career ahead of her because she's the product of two of countries hottest, and most infamous, country superstars. Even though the door starts as a business deal, it winds up being a journey of self discovery and a love story of its own. Overall: 5 

Characters: 5 Annie and Clay are more than just celebrities or musicians. They're real people, and, while you get a glimpse at their larger than life sides, Hahn never lets you get swept up in the glitz and the glamor. They are two brand new adults in a brand new world, still mourning losses from their old one.
Annie has been trying to outrun her parents, and their famous double suicide, since she found their b…