Thursday, November 29, 2018

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

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan, 472 pages. Little Brown and Company, 2018. $19 

Language: PG-13 (6 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G.



Leigh is a sophomore in high school when her mother commits suicide on an afternoon she is away with her best friend Axel. Leigh soon starts seeing a large red bird and is convinced it is her mom trying to get a message to her. The bird leads her to make a trip to Taiwan to visit her estranged grandparents. There, through mystical experiences, she learns about her mother’s past and her experiences with depression. Leigh emerges from these experiences with a better handle on her grief, her sense of guilt, and her relationship with her dad and her friends. 

This is a brilliantly crafted book. Leigh describes the world around her and inside of her through colors; this adds a beautiful layer to the text. While the nature of suicide makes the content of this book mature, the author has handled it very gently and compassionately. The romantically shifting relationship between Leigh and Axel will be familiar to many maturing readers and I would confidently put this in the hands of most high school students.     

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher

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