The Astonishing Color of After
The Astonishing Color of After
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Annotation: After her mother's suicide, grief-stricken Leigh Sanders travels to Taiwan to stay with grandparents she never met, determined to find her mother who she believes turned into a bird.
Catalog Number: #6573255
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 470 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-316-46401-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-316-46401-7
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017022920
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
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)
Publishers Weekly
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. (Mar.)

Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Leigh shatters after her mother's suicide o wouldn't? t 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.
Word Count: 101,576
Reading Level: 4.8
Interest Level: 9-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.8 / points: 15.0 / quiz: 193765 / grade: Upper Grades
Lexile: HL670L

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

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