The Astonishing Colour of After
by Emily X.R. Pan
YA Contemporary, Mystery
Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: ‘I want you to remember’. Leigh doesn’t know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.
Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died – leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn’t home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life.
Overwhelmed by grief and the burden of fulfilling her mother’s last wish, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.
With lyrical prose and magical elements, Emily X.R. Pan’s stunning debut novel alternates between past and present, romance and despair, as one girl attempts to find herself through family history, art, friendship, and love.
*Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for sending me a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!*
Okay…. I’ve got a lot of feelings about this book and, unfortunately, they’re not all good.
I’ll start off with the positives, shall I? This book sounded so interesting from the get-go and the subject it chose to tackle is a very controversial and hard one to undertake – but Emily XR Pan manages to capture it perfectly. I thought depression and mental health were dealt with so well in this book – and previous, as well as forthcoming, novels regarding this issue should take notes!
As well as that, Pan’s prose is honestly so breathtakingly beautiful in this novel. It’s so lyrical and doused with magic, art and mystery. I loved just being able to read and soak up her words and I can’t imagine the magnificent thoughts she thinks from day-to-day.
However, and it really upsets me to say this because I saw a lot about this book on Twitter and it was being praised so highly, Pan’s debut just didn’t live up to the hype I was anticipating. Even with her gorgeous prose, I was just left really confused throughout the book. Maybe it was the slow pace towards the beginning, but there was so much moments in this book – the present, the past a year ago, the past two years ago, the past about Leigh’s parents, the past about Leigh’s mother as a child. I couldn’t really follow it in a chronological order and this seriously had a negative impact on the story for me. As well as that, I kind of felt like the plot dragged. It took me over a month to read this book, and when that happens, I know it’s not a good sign. I will give Pan another chance when she releases new work because her words are simply mesmerising, but, for me, the characters and story of The Astonishing Colour of After didn’t do anything for me.