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

Young adult

The Astonishing Color of After

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Emily X.R. Pan, on your first book!

by Emily X.R. Pan

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Quick Take

An emotional and magical story of a teenage girl who, after her mother's suicide, travels to Taiwan in search of her heritage.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Emotional

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, 400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Supernatural

    Supernatural

  • Illustrated icon, Teen

    Teens

Synopsis

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.

Why I love it

Kissing her longtime bff Axel in his basement was the biggest event in Leigh Chen Sanders’ life so far, until she gets home and learns her mother has taken her own life. Set adrift by her devastation, Leigh shuts herself off from the world.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Liberty, this book sounds so sad!” Well, it IS sad. But it’s also full of life and hope. It’s a remarkable examination of love, loss and family, written with a dash of magic and some of the most vividly beautiful language I have read.

Through a series of strange sightings and gifts, Leigh becomes convinced a beautiful red talking bird is really her mother, calling her to seek her heritage. Leigh’s visceral desire to discover her roots and hold onto her mother is achingly realistic and human. Pan does a magnificent job bringing art and grief to life. Through Leigh’s journey to Taiwan she experiences some difficult moments, but they are also the most insightful of her life. It wasn’t always easy to read about her journey, but my heart is so glad that I did.

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Young adult
View all
Ruthless Vows
The Revenant Games
What the River Knows
As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow
Dragonfruit
Gwen & Art Are Not in Love
Divine Rivals
Legendborn
Foul Lady Fortune
Anna K Away
A Wilderness of Stars
Firekeeper's Daughter
Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Warrior Girl Unearthed
Bloodmarked
Star Daughter
Not So Pure and Simple
Throw Like a Girl
The Queen of Nothing
On the Come Up
Wayward Son
Anna K
The Rest of the Story
With the Fire on High
The Red Scrolls of Magic
This Time Will Be Different
Yes No Maybe So
The Gilded Wolves
Permanent Record
Wicked Saints
Dangerous Alliance
The Sound of Stars
All the Stars and Teeth
Where the World Ends
When the Stars Lead to You
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Ten Thousand Doors of January
The Girl the Sea Gave Back
Saving Zoë
Hello Girls
Mind Games
Storm and Fury
There's Something About Sweetie
Again, But Better
We Hunt the Flame
Sky Without Stars
You'd Be Mine
Opposite of Always
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
Enchantée
The Astonishing Color of After
Top Ten
Little & Lion
The Impossible Fortress
Girls in the Moon
You Will Know Me