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All booksYoung adultThe Astonishing Color of After
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
Young adult

The Astonishing Color of After

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

by Emily X.R. Pan

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, Icon_Emotional


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Supernatural


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Teen


Why I love it

Liberty Hardy
BOTM Judge

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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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.

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Member thoughts

All (2564)
All (2564)
Love (1448)
Like (928)
Dislike (188)
2695 ratings
  • 54% Love
  • 34% Like
  • 7% Dislike
  • North Haledon , NJ

    LOVE doesn’t even describe how I feel about this book! I didn’t want it to end- yet I couldn’t stop reading. I loved the flashbacks and seeing parts of Leigh’s story through different people’s views.


    This book had such a poignant tone and left me in awe of this writer’s storytelling skills. I actually “missed” the characters in this book after I finished this story. Must visit Taiwan nightmarkets!

  • AUgusta, GA

    Beautiful. It’s like this book was made for me as an Asian American who lost her mom at a young age and feared losing that piece and part of my culture. I felt ridiculously connected and so grateful.

  • Moulton, TX

    I loved this book a lot. Not only was it a wonderful story about rekindling family bonds, it portrayed mental illness really well. I haven’t read many books that had such an accurate description of it

  • Hinesburg, VT

    Thought provoking glimpse into a young girl who’s in the throws of grief. I love the journey she took, between the here & there memories. Looking into the asian culture was a huge thing for me, loved!

  • Chicopee, MA

    While I understand why people don’t like this book as much as I do. I can’t help but love this book. Not only did it get me out of reading slump when I first read it but as a debut, it’s so good.

  • Helena, MT

    I loved this book! Heavy topics like mental illness, loss, & grief open the door to hope & healing in this beautiful, important story peppered with colorful imagery, magical realism, & Asian culture.

  • Indianapolis, IN

    I loved this story so much x100. All through the fantastical storyline was the deep truth of depression - a truth not often accurately represented. But in the end the good memories can still remain <3

  • Deerfield, NH

    Grief and mourning take a physical presence within Leigh when she loses her mother. There are so many brilliant aspects at play in this story: magical realism, depression, art, family. I cried, a lot.

  • Newport News , VA

    I could not get enough of this story and actually forced myself to go slow reading it so I could read the book longer. Hauntingly beautiful depiction of grief and is now one of my all time favorites.

  • Napa, CA

    I sobbed while reading this. It brought memories of my mom and grandma. I can't put into words the way this book made me feel all the feels. It broke my heart and then filled it back up with hope/love

  • Fort pierce, FL

    As an artist I was able to relate to the main character. This book was creative with its imagery and had a lot of beautiful symbolism. On top of that the story itself was super good and had a nice end

  • Independence, KY

    I was scared to read this, due to suffering from depression & also feeling so close to my mother. It showed me though a beauty of art and dying that I'll cherish & maybe not feel so scared now to lose

  • Marietta, GA

    MY HEART. This girl, my heart absolutely breaks for her. She is so eager to believe in the crazy idea that her mother is a bird. Weird magic, twists and just absolutely beautiful language. Loved this

  • Chandler, AZ

    I adored this book for so many reasons. As someone who lost their Mom in High School this book really talked to me. I loved how this book discusses cultural differences, relationships and family in

  • Rutland, MA

    This book is beautiful in every way, the phrasing, the imagery, the story. The level of magic was just right to make it believable for the “real” world without turning it into a fantastical novel.

  • Golden Valley, MN

    The Astonishing Color of After deals with the heartbreaking and convoluted aftermath of suicide. I adored this poetic account of searching to discover who someone truly was. A graceful mystery. Lovely

  • Royal Oak, MI

    This is a beautiful book. The author captured how it feels to be an American with first generation parents and the struggles that come with it. I didn't expect to relate so much to the main character.

  • Sierra Vista, AZ

    As a mental health professional I found the portrayal of depression and the search for closure by a family member after a suicide very realistic. Also loved the cultural and mystical characteristics!

  • Oklahoma City , OK

    I sat down to read this and didn’t get up until I finished ! This was what I needed to read at this stage of my life! The writer may never know how much this book means to me or how it impacted me!

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