Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult Fiction
Publication Date: March 20th, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Emily X.R. Pan’s debut book is a heartbreakingly beautiful story told through a young girl’s way of coping with her mother’s depression and ultimately suicide. This story goes between the past and the present seamlessly through the main character, Leigh, who travels to Taiwan after her mother’s death to meet her grandparents for the first time in her life. Even though they don’t speak the same language, they bring comfort to each other. Throughout this whole book, Leigh is convinced that a reappearing giant red bird is her mother’s reincarnation. Leigh visits all of her mother’s favorite spots in Taiwan in attempt to bring back memories of her mother and better understand her story.
The strange way Emily transitions between the past and present is ingenious. Leigh finds a box of incense that were in a package from her grandparents. When lit, these incenses protrude a thick inky smoke which transports her into memories from the past. They could be Leigh’s, or a family members, or even ones from before Leigh was born. The book starts with very little information or backstory, it just goes straight into the story. Which is actually really smart on the author’s part, since many books start with boring background information that causes readers to lose interest quickly. But Emily’s cleverness allowed her to avoid that situation with the inclusion of the incense memories.
I would like to warn readers that this book does talk about serious topics such as depression and suicide. Alongside of reading this book, I had to read a more light hearted book since I am not used to reading about such serious topics. However everyone should be reading about these subjects because they tell the truth and help us to understand the real world. There are not nearly enough fictional books that display deep subjects that make a reader think. I believe that Emily’s book definitely does the subject justice. It is also great to have more diverse books coming out, as there aren’t nearly as many as there should be.
Emily’s writing style is very creative and her use of descriptive language emboldens this tragically beautiful story. I also believe that the author’s use of colors for feelings was brilliant and really improved the imagery. I would recommend this book to anyone. As I said before everyone should read a book like this once in awhile to refresh your palate. If you love contemporaries, this book is even more perfect for you. If your a fan of other genres, please don’t be afraid to try something new.
I received a free copy of The Astonishing Color of After from the NOVL in exchange for an honest review.