Leigh's mother has turned into a bird. No one believes her, but she knows it is true. Right after her mother's death, she started seeing a large, beautiful red bird around her house. When Leigh's dad decides that they should travel to China to meet Leigh's grandparents for the first time, she hopes that she will get some clarity about her mother. Why were she and her grandparents out of contact? Did her mother always struggle with depression? Have they also been seeing her as bird? Leigh finds that in China, there are methods and expectations for how people should interact with ghosts, and that there is so much of her mother's story that she has yet to learn.
Why It's Worth Reading:
This is an incredible book. There were so many things I loved about it! I loved overt and unapologetic love of art and music that spills from the pages. Leigh is a talented artist, her mother is a gifted pianist, and Leigh's best friend/love interest, Axel, paints his memories in watercolor so he can preserve them in music. Yes. This entire book is as cool as that last sentence. I also, weirdly, like that Leigh and her father have conflict over her art because he doesn't understand it. I appreciate the way that the author expresses Leigh's passion and her unrelenting pursuit to make her father understand it. This book also does a phenomenal job with the grief that weighs on Leigh's mind. Her mother suffered from severe depression and ultimately, took her own life. It is tremendously sad at times, which readers need to know, but Leigh's memories of her mother's struggles are conveyed in a tremendously honest way, as are Leigh's feelings of loss and sadness in the present. Perhaps the most beautiful, lyrical components of this novel come in the moments of magical realism. Leigh's trip to China helps her understand the components of Chinese culture and history that allow people to connect with lost loved ones, that keep the dead alive in memories, symbols, representations and spirits. Leigh's vision of the bird, and flashbacks around certain objects in her grandparents' home are perfect examples, and they are exquisite. I cannot recommend this book more highly.
Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
Awards/Accolades: Honor book for the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature, plus 5 starred reviews.
Does the NHS Library Own a Copy?: Of course.