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The Astonishing Color of After
Cover of The Astonishing Color of After
The Astonishing Color of After
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...
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...
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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
 

Awards-

About the Author-

  • Emily X.R. Pan currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in the Midwestern United States to immigrant parents from Taiwan. She received her MFA in fiction from the NYU Creative Writing Program, where she was a Goldwater Fellow. She is the founding editor-in-chief of Bodega Magazine, and a 2017 Artist-in-Residence at Djerassi. The Astonishing Color of After is her first novel. Visit Emily online at exrpan.com, and find her on Twitter and Instagram:@exrpan.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    January 15, 2018
    Grief, regret, and loneliness form the backdrop of a family's life following a suicide, but a path for healing reveals itself in the form of a magical red bird. Fifteen-year-old Leigh Chen Sanders, daughter of an Irish-American sinologist father and a Taiwanese pianist mother, is in love with her best friend, Axel Moreno. The two have much in common: as well as sharing a passion for art, he is half Filipino and half Puerto Rican and also stands out in their racially homogeneous school. However, a rift has opened between them since their first kiss coincided with the day Leigh's mother took her own life. Now left alone with a distant, judgmental father, Leigh is directed by a red bird she is convinced is her mother to visit her estranged grandparents in Taiwan. There, she seeks out places that were meaningful to her mother and uncovers long-hidden family secrets. The Taiwanese setting is enticingly portrayed, and the magical realism of the bird spirit offers transportive flashback journeys into the family's history. The stigma of mental illness and the terrible loneliness of not being accepted form the heart of this emotionally honest tale, but the device of having Leigh express her feelings in terms of color is distracting and adds little to the story. An evocative novel that captures the uncertain, unmoored feeling of existing between worlds--culturally, linguistically, ethnically, romantically, and existentially--it is also about seeking hope and finding beauty even in one's darkest hours. (author's note, resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 22, 2018
    In the wake of her mother’s suicide, 15-year-old Leigh travels from the U.S. to Taiwan, where she hopes to come to terms with the tragedy while getting to know the maternal grandparents she has never met. Convinced that her mother has been reincarnated as a great red bird and eager to understand what happened, Leigh looks for symbols and meaning in the world around her; a stack of incense sticks grants her visions that allow insight into her mother’s past and family history. At the same time, flashbacks illuminate Leigh’s complicated relationship with her best friend Axel, whom she kissed the day her mother died. Pan’s emotionally charged debut is a compelling exploration of grief and the insidiousness of depression. Her narrator, an artist by nature, sees the world through a colorful, complicated lens, and the novel is steeped in its Taiwanese setting. The subtlety and ambiguity of the supernatural elements place this story in the realm of magical realism, full of ghosts and complex feelings and sending an undeniable message about the power of hope and inner strength. Ages 12–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

  • School Library Journal

    March 1, 2018

    Gr 9 Up-Leigh comes home to the unimaginable-her mother, who has always been depressed, has committed suicide. As her grief swells, Leigh believes in her fog that her mother has not died but her mother's spirit has now turned into a vivid bird who brings Leigh gifts, both physical and in the form of memories. Trying to put all the pieces together, her father and Leigh travel to Taiwan, where her mother immigrated from to the United States after meeting Leigh's father. She has never met her mother's family, and does not understand why her mother never spoke to Leigh about her parents or her childhood. Seeking answers for these questions and more, Leigh's father leaves her in Taiwan to stay with her grandparents. The present-day is woven with flashback memories; Pan's writing takes readers on a journey filled with so much emotion, color, and such well-developed characters with a touch of magic, readers will come to the ending drained and fulfilled at the same time. An exploration of grief and what it means to accept a loved one's suicide, this book's lyrical and heart-rending prose invites readers to take flight into their own lives and examine their relationships. VERDICT Pan's debut novel is not to be missed. Give this to fans of magical realism titles and any reader who is battling grief.-Stephanie Charlefour, formerly of Wixom Public Library, MI

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from February 1, 2018
    Grades 9-12 *Starred Review* Leigh shatters after her mother's suicidewho wouldn't?but when a huge, beautiful red bird appears and calls her name in her mother's voice, she doesn't think she's hallucinating; she's sure the bird is actually her mother, and not some William Faulkner stream-of-consciousness metaphorical crap. When the bird brings Leigh a box of letters and photos from her mother's childhood in Taiwan, she convinces her white father to take her to Taipei to meet her mother's estranged parents for the first time. There she digs into her family's past, visiting her mother's favorite places and keeping an eye out for the bird, which grows ever more elusive the longer Leigh searches. In Leigh's strong, painterly voice and with evocative, fantastical elements, Pan movingly explores grief and loss, as well as Leigh's meaningful search for connection to her secretive mother and her exploration of the many facets of her identity. Particularly laudable is Pan's sensitive treatment of mental illness: Leigh learns many heartbreaking things about her mother's life, but those moments are never offered as explanations for suicide; rather, it's the result of her mother's lifelong struggle with severe, debilitating depression. Dynamic, brave Leigh emerges vividly in Pan's deft hand, and her enthralling journey through her grief glows with stunning warmth, strength, and resilience.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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    Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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