Vee is on a forced mental health hiatus until 16th June. See you then!

Review of The Astonishing Colour Of After by Emily X. R. Pan

by - April 13, 2018

Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy
Pages: 480
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Release Date: 22/03/2018
Find The Author: (Website/Twitter)
Find The Book: Book Depository/AbeBooks UK/US
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(Received free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

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.

This is a pretty amazing book that deals with mental illness and loss. It's also a story of navigating your way around a culture that isn't your own and handles that so spectactularly that even though I'm not familiar with Taiwan as an English reader, I could picture it all perfectly and learnt about life there without feeling like I was being beaten with a history book. It's a pretty incredible debut novel.

After Leigh's mother commits suicide, Leigh finds it impossible to connect with her father and make him understand that her mother isn't gone - she's a bird, and wants Leigh to go to her home country and remember. Remember what, Leigh doesn't know but she heads there anyway, leaving behind her friend Axel and the confusing feelings she was developing for him.

“Here is my mother, with wings instead of hands, and feathers instead of hair. Here is my mother, the reddest of brilliant reds, the color of my love and my fear, all of my fiercest feelings trailing after her in the sky like the tail of a comet.” 

 I didn't want to but I did relate to Leigh's mother. I suffer from severe depression myself and this book convinced me to start talking about it more (I'm on Twitter if you want to stop by, @vee_ramage). The author clearly understood suicide and depression and I really thank her for it. This shows you that depression isn't always a constant dark fog, you can have great days and you can have days where you can't even get out of bed on a morning.

This is somewhere between a contemporary novel and a fantasy but definitely feels like a contemporary. Following what she believes her mother's wishes are, Leigh travels to Taiwan and is shown old memories, via the incense she finds in her room. Flashbacks are used often and very well here, we see old memories from various characters that even Leigh has not seen.

“Once upon a time we were the standard colors of a rainbow, cheery and certain of ourselves. At some point, we all began to stumble into the in-betweens, the murky colors made dark and complicated by resentment and quiet anger. At some point, my mother slid so off track she sank into hues of gray, a world drawn only in shadows.” 

 The romance side of it is all told in flashbacks, as the present day Leigh is in Taiwan. It's actually weird to remember that the majority of what we know of Axel was all present memories, as he was such a dominant character. He's artistic, creative and the perfect counterpart for Leigh. I loved following them growing up and realising that their friendship was something more.

 Overall I think this book is truly something special and the only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 was simply that at nearly 500 pages, it did feel a little too long. The middle dragged but it picked itself back up again and the ending was just perfect, making me want to stay just a little longer.

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  1. I've read this review from a fellow blogger Kelly and I've been curious to try it eversince. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well Vee

    Vanessa @ Blushing Geek


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